It might sound (OK, it DOES sound) pretty morbid, yet the insurance industry has collaborated with boffins to create an algorithm which is said to ‘predict’ at what point in the time, space continuum that policyholders will, well, pop their clogs it would seem. Scientists at the University of East Anglia – in cahoots with members of the British insurance sector – are launching a four-year study to try and establish the implications of long-term illness and life expectancy per se in relation to a range of insurance products.
Granted access to vast databases of medical data will help predict when customers are most likely, at least statistically-speaking, to die; the upshot of which will almost certainly see insurance premiums rise as patterns are formed.
The unique project is receiving an £800,000 helping hand from the Institute and Faculty of Actuaries (IFoA), whilst picking the brains of insurance modelling experts from one of the UK’s foremost insurance lines providers, Aviva. At the heart of the research is the inescapable fact that the population is living longer than ever before, and as such the study team wish to develop software-based means of measuring factors which influence this.
The UEA’s School of Computing Science Professor Elena Kulinskaya is tasked with being the Lead Research on the project, and she told www.telegraph.co.uk; “We want to develop software tools that use Big Data routinely collected by healthcare providers to forecast longevity,” adding; “We want to identify and quantify the key factors affecting mortality and longevity, such as lifestyle choices, medical conditions and medical interventions.” Key to unravelling the mysteries of an ageing population pushing new boundaries is discovering just how a variety of chronic diseases and their treatments are impacting life expectancy rates.
Idea of ‘Death Clock’ Won’t Appeal to Everyone, However Far-reaching Insurance and Health Benefits Might Sway Detractors
The project – although bound to be seen by some as cynical – is merely addressing the trend which has steadily gained momentum within the insurance industry for providers keen to seek out as much information about potential policyholders as is physically possible from the outset so as to ascertain the perceived risk is posed to them in terms of insuring individuals for a cross-section of health-based eventualities.
One insurance analyst and pensions expert quipped; “We’re not quite down to blood samples and DNA tests yet but it’s certainly going that way.” And supporters argue that a need for more tailored approaches to individual healthcare rather than continuing the tried and tested one-size fits all approach is long overdue now that the global population is celebrating more birthdays than ever before. And there’s every reason to believe that rather than working against some people, this new vision could prove advantageous to those who were previously declined particular health insurance policies on account of a hitherto excluded disease based on revised approaches and methodology.
Of course one of the counter arguments is the insistence that many people would still like to remain in the dark about just when their time may be up, however the team behind the new study suggest that the research planned will afford people practical, financial and medical benefits in the medium-to-long term and cite the new-found ability to assist people prepare for their retirement and gaining knowledge of which specific medication (think statins and beta-blockers) will best affect longevity.
Speaking with The Telegraph, Professor Kulinskaya went on to say; “Pension contributions were recently freed, so now people can take their pension pots out and use them as they wish. But to be able to plan for retirement, and to understand how much you can spend, it is good to have some idea of your life expectancy. Our estimates of life expectancy will only be true on average, not at the individual level.” Elsewhere it’s envisaged that such research will also prove useful for GPs who in the future will be given a better idea as to when to prescribe drugs or how to advise their patients, whilst also essentially benefitting local health authorities planning resources, and insurance companies deciding on the size of pension you can buy.