Insurance Technology: 3 Trends to Expect in 2020

With 2020 well underway, you may be wondering what you can expect as far technology changes and trends in the health care and health insurance industries – and their potential impact on you, your groups, and their employees.

Here’s our forecast on three trends to watch for:

1. Increased Telehealth and Telemedicine

The definition of telehealth is the use of digital and other communication technologies (like cell phones and computers) to increase access to health care services and improve health care management. The term “telemedicine” refers to remotely consulting with a medical professional on a health-related matter. Although the two terms are increasingly used interchangeably, telehealth is different from telemedicine because it refers to a broader scope of remote healthcare services than telemedicine.

Telehealth can refer to remote non-clinical services, such as health care provider training, administrative meetings, and continuing education, in addition to clinical services. While the technology for both telehealth and telemedicine has existed for quite a while, it was not until a few years ago that it really began to take off. Modern Healthcare reported in 2019 that telehealth use jumped 53% from 2016 to 2017, outpacing all other care sites.

Telehealth use grew most dramatically in urban areas – roughly twice as fast as in rural areas. Private insurance claims for telehealth increased more than 1,200% from 2012 to 2017, according to a commercial claims analysis by Fair Health.

A boost in telehealth and telemedicine is likely to:

  • Make health care and health services available to more people living in rural and isolated communities;
  • Increase access to health services for people with limited mobility, time, or transportation;
  • Provide greater access to medical specialists;
  • Deliver support for increased self-management of care; and
  • Improve communication and care coordination among patients and their care teams.

Whether it connects a patient by phone or laptop with a health care professional, enables a patient to download and use an app to make diet or exercise changes, encourages patients to access a portal to see test results, schedule appointments, refill prescriptions, or communicate with a medical professional, telehealth can make a real difference in people’s lives.

Healthcare Dive reported in July 2019 that those most likely to use telehealth services were ages 31-40, accounting for 21% of claims, with greater usage among women than men. Interest among health care providers is high for telehealth.

Beyond virtual visits by patients with doctors, health care providers also utilize telehealth to consult with one another – improving the care for their patients. For example, a primary care physician (PCP) might seek feedback from a specialist if the doctor has questions about the best treatment for a patient. The PCP can share notes, test results, X-rays, and other materials to the specialist for review and he or she may respond electronically, schedule a separate virtual appointment, or request an in-person appointment.

Healthcare Finance noted last year that there’s increasing interest in telehealth by doctors. The magazine cited a study by Doximity that physicians reporting telemedicine as a skills increased 20% over a three-year period. More insurers and states are expanding coverage and reimbursement, too. Patients are embracing telehealth as well, with Fair Health citing telehealth claims increasing 624% from 2014 to 2018.


2. Greater Disrupter Influence

Oscar Health, a New York-based health insurer that has been doing business in California for several years, offers a digital-first strategy to drive transparency, personalization, and simplicity in health care.

Oscar’s mobile app combines seven key features to make it easy for members to get care and manage their health:

  • Find an in-network doctor
  • Earn rewards for good health behaviors (such as using a health tracker)
  • Talk to a doctor for free
  • Connect with Oscar’s Concierge Team 24/7
  • Review health history and medical profile
  • Make one-time or recurring payments
  • Access a virtual ID Card

Other disrupters are in the wings, including Haven (the joint venture between Amazon, Berkshire Hathaway, and J. P. Morgan that aims to improve health care for their collective 1.2 million employees) and Best Buy (with its expansion into home health care, remote monitoring tools, and new care coordination services).

Traditional insurers are also expanding their use of mobile apps, adding more features and tools to help members track their fitness and improve their health. For brokers, general agents are adding new apps or improving existing apps. For example, when it was introduced, the WBMedID app from Word & Brown offered brokers’ group members a virtual ID Card on their smartphones for select California carriers. Today, the app offers added features such as the ability to schedule an in-home or in-office doctor visit via and prescription drug discounts using the California Rx Card.

Word & Brown also offers Integrated Provider Search with our WBQuote technology. That gives you the ability to build a quote with plans that include the doctors, medical groups, and hospitals your clients want. You can expect more to come from Word & Brown in 2020.


3. Increased OLE Use

Online enrollment (OLE) used to be limited to large groups or groups with a widely dispersed employee population. Today, groups of all sizes appreciate the many benefits of OLE, including:

  • Easier distribution of information: OLE allows all employees to receive up-to-date plan information at the same time, making it simpler to review coverage options and enroll securely – and easily – online.
  • Streamlined onboarding: OLE integrates with HRIS to expedite new hire processing with digital onboarding and single entry of information for benefits enrollment.
  • Compliance Assurance: An OLE and HRIS system helps clients stay on top of changing rules and regulations, track variable hour employees, calculate Full Time Equivalent (FTE) employees, and determine Applicable Large Employer (ALE) status.

More employers are offering OLE, and Word & Brown’s quoting technology integrates with multiple OLE systems to speed up your groups’ enrollments. That benefits you, your clients, and their employees. We offer free set-up and training, too.

Don’t risk losing out to another broker who may offer your prospects or clients access to OLE. Talk with your Word & Brown rep about matching the right platform to the needs of your groups.


Check our Newsroom and Broker Blog regularly for more updates and predictions about changing technology that could help you and those you serve. In addition to our Technology posts, we regularly feature news you can use in our Broker Life, Broker Aid, First Steps, Selling 101, and Expert Avenue columns.

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