In this, the second of our 4-part series of insurance-focused articles on cancer, Dr. Achim Regenauer, Chief Medical Officer, presents a high-level overview of liquid biopsy, one of the most exciting potential advances in cancer research. With promising results to-date for certain late-stage cancers, early and painless diagnosis from liquid biopsies could have huge positive consequences for wider cancer treatments and recoveries.
Dr. Regenauer’s content is presented in a concise bulleted format – so there’s no need for you to wade through complex medical descriptions or interpret sensationalised headlines.
Alongside the observations, Sohila Kwan, Head of Business Development, Life & Health APAC, adds valuable market insights and solutions relating to how the Life & Health insurance industry can adapt to these changes to stay relevant over the next decade.
Cancer diagnosis has, until now, been done by taking a biopsy of the affected organ tissue to confirm the presence of a tumour. This is invasive (sometimes requiring surgery) and painful (needle puncture). In contrast, liquid biopsy may:
Liquid biopsy has the potential to deliver early, painless, easy to access cancer screening and diagnosis for all. Anticipation, therefore, is for increased, proactive screening amongst the general population, improved treatment outcomes and higher awareness and focus on lifestyle changes to reduce and manage cancer risk.
So, for insurers, not only could the risk change, but so too the insured’s perception of the risk. There is opportunity here for insurers to correspondingly change the way they provide the necessary support, i.e. for a fundamental shift in insurance solutions, a shift toward supporting customers throughout their life journey rather than just at inception, premium payment and claims.
This shift is in fact already underway in the insurance industry: Customers, for example, are already seeking greater value from their Critical Illness policies, including earlier stage diagnoses, support for prevention and disease risk management, and peace of mind that their coverage is keeping up with the latest advances in cancer research; furthermore, insurers are starting to offer disease prevention, health and wellness propositions that attach to the main protection product.
For Life & Health insurers, the development of liquid biopsy represents both risks and opportunities:
In addition, liquid biopsy will potentially give customers sensitive personal and health-relevant information. In the absence of any clear regulation or guidelines on how the industry should or should not request and use this information, the related information asymmetry and data privacy issues present sensitive topics that the industry will need to navigate.
Liquid biopsy and its impacts on the industry is a good example of the importance of “future-proofing” life and health products and hence the growth and sustainability of your business.
Future-proofing means anticipating the future and developing methods of minimising the effects, shocks and stresses of future events. This is particularly relevant for the industry given that the overarching principles and construct of Critical Illness products have remained largely unchanged since it was first developed, and that medical advances are inextricably linked to consumer’ health and behaviours.
Future-proofing in the context of liquid biopsy and other advances not only means evolving the product range to ensure relevancy and customer value, correctly priced in the current and future environment, but also implementing effective monitoring, change and risk management frameworks to manage wider issues, such as data privacy, and enrichment of the control cycle for new initiatives where little if no experience data exists.
It is important for the industry to be proactive about future-proofing Critical Illness business. However, it’s also important that the actions taken are measured and commensurate with the evolving risk and experience.
As you monitor the changes, working together with an expert reinsurance partner – with new products and global experience in innovative, sustainable solutions – can help you to prepare for the future.
At PartnerRe, we recognise the importance of Critical Illness coverage to your business and customers, and – as advances change the way that we detect, treat and manage cancer – we want to support you in your goal of protecting your customers’ health, from financial protection to health improvement and disease prevention, including by investing earlier on in the customer health journey.
If understood well and proactively managed, advances in medical research, such liquid biopsy, create an opportunity to enrich the product and proposition for consumers to deliver effective, aligned solutions and certainty when it’s so critically needed.
Together with our global medical experts, we’re looking at new and sustainable Critical Illness product wordings, designs and pricing, as well as supporting services that are “future-proofed” to medical advances, such as liquid biopsy for cancer. We have been successful, for example, in developing an innovative, new-age product that replaces definitions with outcome-based cover wordings to align cancer benefits with need and at an affordable price. We would be delighted to partner with you to evolve this product further.
We’re here to support you as you deliver on your promises to your customers, backed by our risk and product expertise, capacity, security and long-term partnership approach.
We believe in the value of collaboration to listen to your needs, your concerns and your ambitions, to work together to analyse and support the risk and to realise the opportunities for you and your customers.
We hope you found this overview helpful.
Don’t miss the next article in this series on cancer treatments – “Part 3: Targeted Cancer Therapy – Road to Precision Medicine”, includes insights such as the first routine applications of precision medicine – coming out soon.
Our approach is one of partnership, shared expertise and the creation of success for our clients.
We look forward to discussing these trends and concepts with you, and to turning them into concrete solutions for your business.
Sohila Kwan, Head of Business Development, Life & Health, APAC
2 Diagnosis of a medical condition that would never have caused any symptoms.