We have always been fans of tele-interviewing and have authored or co-authored two seminal reports on the subject over the years1,2.

Tele-interviews, when carried out by well trained individuals, ideally with a medical, nursing or underwriting background, can bring new and more detailed disclosures than may be the case when applicant is questioned by an agent or broker. Figures from Morgan Ash, a long-standing tele-interview provider in the UK which uses trained nurses to conduct its interviews, claims a significant improvement, bases on analyses, in disclosures and a reduction in the amount of missing information compared with an attending physicians statement (known in the UK as a general practitioner’s report or GPR).

In recent years perhaps, in some markets, the benefits of an underwriting process built round a tele-interview, have been overshadowed by the increased use of underwriting rules engines to process applications. But in these COVID times the traditional face-to-face distribution model and medical evidence protocols for life and health insurance are struggling:

  • It is pretty much impossible to see clients in person.
  • It is difficult to obtain screening tests, although some insurers are using virtual screenings carried out over Skype or similar, and finger-prick blood tests done at home by the applicant him- or herself3.
  • Getting a report from an attending physician or GP is difficult when health resources are stretched to breaking point.

With this background could tele-interviews may well come back into fashion and provide an alternative to these other sources of information? Using a ‘big T’ model in which all applicants are interviewed could yield benefits in terms of the amount and quality of information disclosed, obviating the need for further medical evidence. Using a ‘small t’ model in which the interviewer concentrates on getting more details on specific disclosures may also help avoid screening or obtaining medical reports from a doctor or clinic. Of course, an interview cannot provide a substitute for pathological reports but it can help in other areas provided the applicant knows about their medical condition, particularly mental health issues.

The current crisis has meant that insurers and service providers are having to think ‘outside the box’ and provide innovative solutions, and we are impressed with the way they have responded. We think that quality tele-interviews have their place in the current situation.

References

  1. SelectX Tele-underwriting Guide. SelectX 2003
  2. Tele-underwriting: a Worldwide Overview. SelectX and Hank George. SCOR 2010
  3. In the UK Medical Screening Solutions and Square Health have developed a virtual medical examination which involves answering medical questions with a nurse via a video call, taking height, weight and a pinprick sample of blood which is sent for laboratory testing. For the blood test an approved self-testing kit is supplied to applicants in advance of the virtual examination with instructions on how it can be dispatched to the laboratory. The video consultation enables the nurse examiner to see the applicant self-administer the blood test.

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