LifeQ takes guesswork out of risk

Johannesburg - Picture the scenario: you decide to increase your life insurance, but the medical screening shows you have high cholesterol.

The insurance company overlooks the fact that you are in a much better shape than your peers or that there is no history of anyone in your family suffering from heart conditions.

It decides to charge you a 50% premium to cover its risk of your suffering a fatal heart attack, in effect losing your business.

Fortunately, the days of blanket penalisation for specific health markers are slowly drawing to an end, thanks to the development of new technology and models enabling the individualisation of risk assessments.

LifeQ is leading the innovation in this field by moving beyond mere data collection – done by most wearable technology and health apps – to the development of mathematical models and advanced analytics that calculate and identify an individual’s health risks.

Riaan Conradie, the president and co-founder of LifeQ, says: “Instead of focusing our energy on adding more applications or wearables to the market, we decided to rather use our in-depth understanding of human physiology and our computational biology skills to develop models and algorithms that add value to these applications or wearables.”

The company’s efforts are paying off, resulting in partnerships with international tech giants such as Garmin and Striiv, and clients such as TomTom.

“The problem for most of the wearable tech and app companies is that they only roughly estimate basic information, such as calories burnt, while
some of the newer, more sophisticated models are starting to measure sleep patterns. However, we have created a platform into which body monitoring technologies can feed their data, so we can calculate and identify their users’ health risks as well as ways in which these users can adapt behaviour to reduce these risks.”

The technology can alert users to specific threats or conditions, such as diabetes, heart diseases or sleep apnoea, which Conradie estimates can reduce a person’s life expectancy by eight to 15 years. Interventions are also suggested to reduce the user’s risks.

“The technology might, for example, suggest that someone rather walk than jog,” Conradie explains.

Nevertheless, the technology is not aimed at replacing medical practitioners.

“We are not authorised to diagnose or treat diseases. People using the technology will therefore rather be guided towards the appropriate action, for example to see a nearby doctor who is tapped into the network for medical advice. Once a disease has been identified, the technology can again be used to continuously monitor it,” Conradie says.

LifeQ is primarily targeting the insurance industry.

Conradie explains that the company’s main objective was to create a service that would reduce healthcare costs and boost personal health.

“We did not position ourselves in the traditional healthcare industry as it is too focused on the treatment and not the prevention of diseases. This is extremely expensive.

“In the US, almost 20% of the country’s GDP is spent on healthcare – that is one out of every five dollars earned. What’s worse is that 90% of this money is spent on chronic disease, most of which is largely preventable.

“The insurance industry posed a better match because client health has a direct impact on the prosperity of these companies. Teaming up with insurers renders our services available to more people than it would have if we were positioned in the wellness or medical market,” Conradie says.

LifeQ has already partnered with a couple of international companies in the insurance sector and is in the process of finalising an agreement with a big South African player, which should result in this type of insurance becoming available in South Africa early next year.

Conradie says an insurance company could use their services in a number of different ways.

This story first appeared in Finweek

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