Brazil's SulAmérica: from insurer to health tech leader
With around 7 million customers, SulAmérica Seguros is Brazil's second-biggest insurance company.
It first launched a telemedicine service in 2018, although regulation prevented video consultations. In 2019, a new regional health plan called SulAmérica Direto launched, enabling brokers to sell low-cost corporate plans in low take-up areas.
Keen to support this sector further, in 2020 SulAmérica Seguros sold its motor and property business and acquired Paraná Clínicas, a corporate healthcare specialist with six centres and 90,000 clients in southern Brazil.
When rules relaxed around video consultations, SulAmérica's existing telemedicine platform enabled it to easily run an on-screen physician service. In February 2020 there were 500 virtual consultations, by April this reached 15,000 and by June 60,000.
The move to digital health
As COVID-19 was beginning to take hold the company upgraded its digital health tools for customers, physicians and therapists. Its app allows policyholders to book virtual appointments with GPs, specialists and therapists, request examinations and order prescriptions via devices, in a safe, socially distanced-environment.
The business also launched an online COVID-19 screening service, which by May had been accessed by over 280,000 users. Between March and November of 2020, nearly 400,000 digital consultations were held, providing COVID-19 assistance, ensuring the continuation of elective and non-COVID emergency treatment and maintaining ongoing care provision.
During the company’s Q3 results last year, CEO Gabriel Portella said health management and its co-ordinated care programme were the pillars of the company's operation, emphasising the importance of using advanced technology to track customers’ journeys. Next they will offer a similar "financial doctor" service for its life and pensions’ customers, and more tech innovation using IoT.
“We already have transactional data and client interaction through our co-ordinated care programme, but if we can find out more about clients’ lifestyles, we can influence behaviour to improve health and wellbeing" Enterprise Architect Manager Cristiano Bezerra says.
He adds that the transition from health insurer to technology leader could not have taken place without APIs and Microservices - a framework connecting separate software elements. “APIs unlock the true potential of the value chain, sharing business intelligence with new channels and interfaces.
“The health sector fails to use APIs to share data; doctors, healthcare management firms and insurers hold information in silos, hindering service improvements and wellbeing provision. APIs facilitate automated services, such as chatbots and Interactive Voice Response systems, speeding up response times and enhancing the customer experience. They can also be used to set parameters for automatic claims approval and identify attempted fraud.”
SulAmérica used API technology from Sensedia to integrate its products and systems across a network of partners such as startups, health techs and banks, sharing data securely via different applications.
With offices in the UK, Brazil and Peru, Sensedia helps clients in multiple industries develop and implement online solutions. EMEA director Stephen Walsh comments: “APIs are not just for innovation, they support business sustainability, enabling companies to set up partner ecosystems. And once in place, it’s easy to tailor products and services to particular customer profiles.
“Key to this is identifying what type of partner integration you require, setting up the partnership and designing a strategy to facilitate growth. Is the partner ecosystem top priority, do you want to digitalise channels or invest in smart devices for every customer? Whatever the priority, it must hinge upon a robust API plan with clear access levels for every partner.”
Walsh adds: “Through its use of APIs, SulAmérica Seguros has taken health insurance and wellbeing provision to a new level and this is before the company reaches its full technology potential.”
Zoom enters the healthcare market - a timeline
Since the pandemic began Zoom has become an integral part of daily life for people working from home, as well as a vital tool for families and friends to communicate. However it's also been eyeing up the healthcare space since 2017, and following the boom in telehealth the company has been rolling out additional services. Here we chart Zoom's move into healthcare.
2011 - 2013
Zoom is founded in San Jose, California, by Eric Yuan, formerly of Cisco. He got the idea to create a video calling platform from his visits to his girlfriend while he was a student, which would take 10 hours by train.
A beta version is released in 2012, which can host up to 15 participants. In 2013 this rises to 25. By mid-2013, Zoom has 1 million users.
2014 - 2017
Zoom attracts investors, including Sequoia Capital, Emergence and Horizon Ventures. By January 2017, Zoom has a series D funding worth $100 million.
2017 - 2019
Zoom for Telehealth launches, including an integration with EHR system Epic. It has cloud-based video, audio, and content sharing features, a "waiting room" for patients, and can easily be integrated into healthcare provider's workflows.
In 2019 Zoom goes public, with its IPO rising 72% in one day.
As a result of the pandemic, Zoom gains 2.2 million new users, more than in the whole of 2019. On the 23rd of March alone - the day the UK lockdown was announced - the platform was downloaded 2.13 million times around the world.
Share prices rise to around $150, and founder and chief executive Eric Yuan becomes one of the world's richest people, with an estimated net worth of $7.9 billion.
Early security issues are addressed by encrypting data with the Advanced Encryption Standard (AES). By now the the platform allows 99 people to be on a call simultaneously
New features launch, including Zoom Home and Zoom for Chats. Throughout the year the platform is used to replace most kinds of real life events: work meetings, online classrooms, church services and social events.
Renamed Zoom for Healthcare, users can share secured video, audio, and content through desktops, mobile phones, and conference devices. As well as Epic, it can be integrated with Strmr, IntakeQ, and Practice Better.
It can also be used with diagnostic cameras and other point-of-care devices, including digital stethoscopes.
In an interview with Korea Biomedical Review, Zoom Global Healthcare Lead Ron Emerson said: "Our service is not simply a virtual care and telemedicine platform but a multi-purpose platform that can satisfy the needs of healthcare institutions."
"It can be used for administrative tasks, including telemedicine, medical team meetings, recruitment, medical education, employee training, and disease prevention. Analysing electronic records managed by Zoom could provide meaningful insights into patient care."
Phoenix Children's Hospital, Belfast's Hospital Services Limited, Butler Health Services and the global Project ECHO are among Zoom for Healthcare's current customers.