Digital health is here to stay – if that wasn’t already obvious at the beginning of 2020, COVID 19 has made us all painfully aware of this. Most health insurers have already invested substantially in a variety of digital health technologies over the last 10 years and are now aggressively adding to and improving their digital offerings. And Life Insurers also recognize that “It is imperative that you have a customer engagement strategy, and that engagement will be based on your customer’s health – you are now in the health business.”

Digital health has largely evolved organically – I’ll call this digital health 1.0. Insurers reacted to customer needs by developing or partnering with vendors to deliver a variety of technologies and apps to their members with the goal of providing more cost-efficient operations such as the diagnosis and treatment of many types of illnesses. During COVID the demand for telehealth has skyrocketed, leaving no doubt that digital is more than important – it is now considered essential.

1Why One Expert Says Digital Health and Wellness Services Are Here to Stay, Forbes, August 2020

2Tim Wallace, former CEO of iPipeline to the audience of 600 Life Insurance attendees at Connections, 2019

3The US national telehealth claims tracker reported over a 4,000% increase in June 2020 compared to June 2019. Source:

However, in the digital health 1.0 world most insurers are now facing the consequences of that organic process – e.g. having too many apps, tools and platforms that are not integrated. In recent discussions with health plan executives I’ve heard the same story over and over: we need a single platform that contains all the data from all of our digital offerings to: 

a) understand the health of the individual; 

b) automate the distribution of the digital health tools to the people that need them; and 

c) allow us to determine what is working best, and where we need improvements.  

In other words, digital health needs structural change.

So, what does digital health 2.0 need to look like?  It’s not just another one-off tech project, nor will the shortcomings be fixed by adding more tools or new apps that do more things. Nor will it be fixed with a single over-arching product that does it all. Digital health is too broad and includes numerous innovative products that address special health and medical conditions – no one product or company can do all of this well.  So, managing multiple digital health products will remain the norm and an integration strategy is therefore mandatory.

Health 2.0 requires an overall strategy that combines business processes, product development, IT architecture, security and privacy compliance, and system interoperability to accommodate health and risk scoring, data analytics, user engagement and integration into existing programs and solutions.

A health 2.0 platform also needs to overcome additional challenges: on the one hand insurers are rolling out digital health solutions to create deeper relationships with their end-users, and on the other hand insurers often operate in multi-level channel environments– i.e. through brokers, employers, etc. That means an insurer could have many group level customers that have their own specific requirements, including branding, customizations, and integrations along with their unique group of users.  Thus, a multi-tenant system for data management and system administration is paramount.  For insurers this means that their group customers would have their own administrative access to manage their tenant subsystem to onboard and manage their respective users, to access and run their own reports and to launch and manage their own health and wellness programs.

“By evolving and improving the platform in small iterations as opposed to traditional ‘big bang’ release deployments, the introduction of unwanted faults and bugs and their resultant consequences can be minimize”

Because technology involving health data is subject to strict personal data privacy regulations (e.g., HIPAA, GDPR, etc.), traditional co-hosted or tenant-based SaaS (Software as a Service) models often fail to provide the necessary security framework. From an IT provider’s perspective, setting up such securely separated hosting instances efficiently can be a major obstacle. Building a worldwide distributed infrastructure which allows deployments to regional hosting centers close to customer locations is a costly and time consuming task, and maintaining and supporting these environments in a uniform way can be a huge challenge with a lot of potential points of failure.

With the rise of cloud computing and the use of cloud native technologies, many of these challenges can be mitigated and addressed. Cloud providers like Microsoft Azure offer dozens of hosting centers all over the world which satisfy most of today’s regional hosting requirements. With an appropriate system architecture and the respective tooling like IaC (Infrastructure as Code) and automated CI/CD (Continuous Integration/Continuous Deployment) processes, the deployment of fully configured, secure, zero trust customer environments can be achieved in hours, not weeks, and also enables a sustainable and transparent system of operation and lifecycle management. By evolving and improving the platform in small iterations as opposed to traditional ‘big bang’ release deployments, the introduction of unwanted faults and bugs and their resultant consequences can be minimized, the overall quality of the platform can be improved, and the response time to analyze and fix issues can be greatly reduced.

To fully benefit from modern cloud platforms, moving a product to the cloud is not a simple lift and shift operation for a digital health vendor – i.e., moving to the “cloud” does not mean simply changing datacenters. To attain the true value of the cloud requires a significant IT investment utilizing new cloud native technologies and architecture principles. It often requires the vendor product to be reengineered to leverage the advantages of cloud computing. Moving to digital health 2.0 is not simple, but it is unavoidable if insurers wish to gain the operational efficiencies they seek and to achieve the health benefits that their customers demand.

About dacadoo

dacadoo licenses its Digital Health Engagement Platform, including its Health Score, to Life & Health insurance operators (B2B), supplying Insurtech and health-tech solutions to over 35 of the top 100 Life & Health insurance operators globally. Available in over 15 languages, dacadoo’s technology is provided as a fully branded, white label solution or it can be integrated into customers’ products through its API. Through its ‘Connect, Score, Engage’ offering, dacadoo supports Life & Health operators to motivate their clients to lead healthier lifestyles through its SaaS-based Digital Health Engagement Platform. dacadoo also provides its Risk Engine, which calculates relative risk on mortality and morbidity in real-time. dacadoo has over 115 employees across locations in Europe, North America and Asia-Pacific and over 100 filed patents around our digital Life & Health solutions.

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