By 2018 consumers will drive an estimated $650 billion worth of health insurance decisions, nearly ten times the amount they accounted for in 2014. To avoid being left behind, payers must embrace an analyze-and-act mindset on every customer interaction. Meanwhile, vast new amounts of real-time consumer data is flooding into enterprises, courtesy of the internet of things (IoT) and wearables. If they can harness that data, carriers can accelerate their shift to a consumer-centric model, offering their members relevant, real-time information on their health. But to do so will require payers to implement modern technologies that provide a coordinated, enterprise-wide view of the data they’re collecting and analyzing.

So how will IoT transform the insurance industry?

Let’s start with this stat: “6.4 billion devices already connected and 5.5 million added every day.” Imagine having a direct link to a member (with their consent of course) that helps identify trends in their behavior that allow the payer to assess risk or gain a clear perspective on what motivates the member to get healthier.

Whereas digital brand channels or member tools provide monitoring of day-to-day member interactions, the IoT can provide a look into members’ behavior at all times through wearables like FitBit, Nike+ FuelBand and the Apple iWatch. In this interview by Forbes contributor Robert Reiss, Vik Renjen, SVP of Sutherland Global Services, says: “Numerous large employers have established programs that award points to employees having healthy lifestyles as documented by their daily activity, calorie burn, heart rate and sleep pattern history uploaded daily.”

Wearables are also beginning to play a role in post-operative procedures by detecting poor physical recovery after major operations. As described in this study presented at the 2016 Clinical Congress of the American College of Surgeons: “monitoring patients’ postoperative functional recovery using a commercially available, wireless activity tracker is feasible, and strongly correlates with patients’ reported postoperative complications.” In addition: “Data from the device, combined with online patient surveys, could help the surgical team identify patients who are at high risk of having complications, so that health care providers could intervene early”

But again, to derive the full value of all the available data, insurers must invest in systems, called customer engagement hubs, that help them view and act on it. And the catalyst at the center of this customer engagement hub would be an insurance specific CRM that triggers workflows and recommendations achieving two key goals: putting their customers’ needs first and connecting the entire health care ecosystem of members to the enterprise and all lines of business.

As customer expectations continue to be driven by industries outside of healthcare, the bar has been raised quite high for carriers; they must create frictionless and holistic ways to ensure member satisfaction, reduce churn and increase brand loyalty. Below are several ways the IoT can serve as a brand extension and provide a real-time interaction with members.

Interact with members beyond open enrollment.

  • Through wearables and incentives to members, carriers can gain a 24/7/365 window into consumer insights, habits and member behavior. These insights can lead to demographic trends that help improve the health of a specific segment or population.

Promote and encourage healthy behavior while lowering costs

  • One of the most promising features of wearables is their ability to monitor and improve health. As mentioned here regarding connected biometrics: “With supplemental GPS data, wearables could monitor and report on compliance to the rehabilitation protocol of a disability claimant.” That would allow “the plan sponsor, employees and carrier all [to] benefit from improved understanding of risk, more accurate pricing and reduced claims cost.”

Marketing to provide value when people need it most

  • Data from IoT technologies could expedite how carriers position a product or service to their customers, ensuring that carriers are always providing timely and proactive advice and demonstrating that they care about their members.

All of this can be accomplished using modern technologies that are lean and easily configurable – and that don’t require re-engineering or displacing current systems. This from Vik Renjen says it all: “With 21 billion devices gathering and sending data, carriers must immediately re-imagine how they will store, sift through and use their portion of what respected industry analyst IDC predicts will be 50 trillion gigabytes of data produced by the IoT in 2020!”