Healthcare in a digital world


10 April 2018

In 2015, AXA Health celebrated 75 years of providing private healthcare plans - something we are proud of. On the 5th July 2018 this year the NHS sees its own anniversary, a little younger than AXA Health at 70.

As with any landmark birthday, we’re often prompted to reflect on the past and also perhaps more-so on the future path that lies ahead. One thing that both organisations have in common is having to work out how they fit into a radically different health landscape to when they both started, one in which, partly due to the ageing population and increasing digitalisation, the goal posts are constantly changing.

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Innovation is key

The key to survival, mooted by many to be the ability of an organisation to work in an ‘Agile’ way, is in essence the ability to adapt to change quickly coupled with the ability to ‘Innovate’.

This ‘Innovation’ is what has prompted another corporate buzzword of our day, but despite the negative connotations perhaps triggered by images of a naughty schoolchild, we all now aspire to be ‘disrupters’ in our industry.

Enter the likes of Elon Musk, Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg. Few would argue that these characters weren’t ‘disrupters’, and one thing they have in common is their use of technology to create their disruption, all edging us closer to that Blade Runner style world.

Looking specifically at healthcare, this disruption has often come in the form of the empowerment of individuals to know their own health data and manage their health more effectively.

We are now able to monitor our health 24/7 with wearables, get a diagnosis without leaving our home, download and engage with any number of Apps to enable us to better manage a host of different illnesses. We can walk around with our entire medical record on our phone, and we can even find out our likelihood to suffer different health issues in the future (23andMe – DNA testing). 

Technology also allows us to monitor and control our family’s lives from a distance with the advent of the ‘Internet of Things’, something that is relevant in an age of increasing need for social care. With an ageing population we recognised there was a need for an alternative solution to care homes, which helped retain that all-important independence, which is why in 2017 we launched Taking Care. Aimed at providing solutions to support individuals who care for and manage the lives of family members as they grow older, they offer services from personal alarms to a 3 in 1 medical helpline. For more information visit  Taking Care.

Keeping pace with this digital revolution is a feat in itself, with constant new entrants in the field and a myriad of different horses to bet on.

Health Tech & You – AXA Health’s eye on the future

One way AXA Health is keeping track is by engaging with new ‘disrupters’ through our AXA HealthTech &You program, a successful programme which serves to help keep us close to key initiatives which could support our members whilst encouraging innovation in the field of wellbeing and healthcare – supporting those smart people who dare to dream something different. Key categories challenging how we approach health problems include, Innovations in the early Diagnosis of Dementia and Women Entrepreneurs in Health Tech, with two interesting challenges; Staying Independent with Tech and Peri-Menopause. You’ll have to wait and see what the outcomes are. The results will be in at the end of May.

A welcome fact brought to the fore with the recent Health Tech & You ‘Coaching’ challenge, has been the wave of digitalisation in support of Mental Health. 

Headspace, an app which trains users in the art of meditation and being present in the moment has been  downloaded more than 11,000 million times since it was first introduced. [1]

Traditionally a taboo subject, it is now treated with the respect it needs. Society is gradually shedding the stigma and seeing the benefits to tackling the issue head on. 

Employers increasingly acknowledge the benefits of providing health and wellbeing platforms to attract top talent and to keep their workforce healthy and engaged. Digitalisation such as machine learning (AI) and remote coaching have facilitated the scaling required to keep any such solution viable.

AXA Group have sought to get closer to the AI debate by providing support to researchers through the AXA Research Fund. They’ve covered diverse topics from how the use of ‘big data’ is helping us to understand the complexities experienced by Diabetes (Type 1) sufferers and  how research into fruit fly mitochondria can help us understand our own ageing process.

HealthTech & You, building partnerships

Last year one of the finalists, LiveSmart, showcased a solution that really resonated with us and our focus on forging health and wellbeing products and services that support employees and employers alike. It took health assessments and placed them into a digital world. It addresses a number of challenges with the provision of such services crucially creating an opportunity for a wider selection of employees to access a tool that can help to identify early on, risks to their health. We’ve worked with them to develop this further so that it complements other benefits provided and signposts employees to workplace support - Realise Health Plans

HealthTech & You has been a great place for individuals and start-ups to showcase and develop their ideas and we’re looking forward to the awards in May. There are some amazing entries.

A final thought

Now more than ever we need to take control of our own health. Healthcare apps and the supporting data they provide play a crucial part in this. Despite the digitalisation of healthcare being wholly reliant upon the management of data, and the impending changes to data protection presenting their own set of challenges, it is likely that competition in both the areas of physical and mental digital healthcare will only increase. It can also be argued that none of these innovations come a moment too soon either, as pressures of an ageing population, growing numbers of chronic illness sufferers and a lack of resources for treatment and social care pushes the traditional model of having our health ‘taken care of for us’, further and further into the past, and forces us and (to a lesser extent our employers) to be ever more responsible.