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Using the Data Deluge to Empower Consumers

Opal Perry
Insurance Experts' Forum, July 3, 2014

Is there anyone who hasnít experienced the massive change taking place in the amount of data we, as consumers, have at hand to help us understand the world around us? We can make better day-to-day choices on everything from our own behavior (e.g. how active we are and what foods we eat) to our purchasing decisions on matters as big as choosing a medical provider and as small as comparison shopping for a gallon of milk. With constantly improving applications and analytics, we can connect the data points and drive better outcomes for ourselves and our families.

Activity tracking devices, which monitor steps taken, calories burned, stairs climbed and even hours slept, have become ubiquitous, bringing with them the mobile apps that help make sense of the data. Itís now common to see people swapping stories about their use for counting steps, measuring workouts or managing diets. We can now track information about ourselves on a daily basis which, just a few years ago, would have only been available with pricey equipment and input from doctors, trainers or physical therapists. In short, there is a lot you can do on your own to apply the data and improve your choices.

But for those with more complicated needs or conditions, the real power is in combining the data with the advice of a trusted professional. As these capabilities mature, the medical field is exploring how to encourage and support individuals in partnering with providers to improve their outcomes. For example, while a diabetic facing weight problems can learn to better manage a day-to-day diet, a doctor can use the data to identify trends or complications over time, altering prescriptions or other steps to improve the patientís health even further.

As drivers gain more and more access to data on their driving behaviors and vehicle performance, I believe we in the insurance industry can learn from these developments in the personal wellness field. The initial focus of telematics in the auto insurance industry has been on its ability to help insurers analyze data for policy and rate decisions. However, insurers also can use this information to help policyholders. They can become trusted advisors by helping customers and their families to use their own data to make better, more-informed choices on how to reduce risk and improve driving behaviors.

Allstate recently unveiled the Star Driver teen driving program, which encourages ongoing conversations between parents and new drivers to help develop good driving behaviors and confidence behind the wheel. Programs like this have great potential to not only help consumers be more informed about how to lower risk behind the wheel, but also to allow agents and their companies add more and more value by providing analytics, comparisons and advice that customers may not have on their own.

The industry has arrived in a unique position where we can make driving ever safer and ó through reward programs ó perhaps a bit more fun as well. I canít wait to see what is next for consumer empowerment.

Opal Perry is the VP Testing and Release Management at Allstate.

Readers are encouraged to respond to Opal using the "Add Your Comments" box below.

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