With Viveo extending its network to more and more countries and an added focus on providing solutions for health insurance companies, I sat down to speak to CEO, Raul Källo about how his experience in insurance helped him to build a better product and have a clearer concept of what is currently missing in the market.
Before getting involved in the health-tech business you were working in insurance for over 25 years correct? How did you get started?
I first got started in insurance at the young age of 18 and at 21 I had already begun my own insurance brokerage company with a specialization in more complicated insurance deals. To add to the complication, despite being based in Estonia, our biggest contracts, roughly 95%, were actually in other countries – mostly in London, but other parts of continental Europe as well.
At first, expanded business was mostly in the other Baltic states as well as Finland, but then we were asked to consult with one of the biggest chemical groups in Ukraine. From there interest expanded to throughout Europe and eventually the US.
What made your company stand out so that you were able to be successful?
We studied a lot on how to optimize insurance contracts. In several cases we would combine together in one slip 20 different insurance companies. First European/Nordic ones, and then moving on to the London market.
We noticed that what made us successful next to the bigger insurance brokers is that we would go into more details and had insurance contracts with more optimization. The idea to start Viveo Health actually came from insurance industry pain points I experienced while living abroad. I found private health insurance so broken and difficult to use. Every doctor visit was very demanding, always searching around for the right doctor, to the point where I was ready to pay anything to find a doctor.
This experience led me to look into the inefficiencies in private health insurance and from this I noticed that it’s pretty much all offline with people self-diagnosing and then looking for a doctor based on some online symptom checker with a 51% accuracy – often leading them to the wrong type of doctor. This process causes a lot of empty visits with insurance companies and healthcare providers not really collaborating at all.
I got the idea to digitize a big part of the doctor patient interactions – this leads tobetter overall prices and a good referral system to specialists which allows insurance companies to save money. In most cases, insurance companies are the biggest stakeholders in healthcare so if we direct customers to labs or pharmacies then the medical institutions don’t spend a lot of money on client acquisition. This was the initial idea behind launching Viveo Health.
How did Viveo first get its start?
“We wanted something that was
end-to-end for the customer and
that created an ecosystem between
insurance companies, labs, pharmacies
and service providers”
It all started after speaking to some of the biggest insurance companies and then signing a deal with Amtrust that required us to spend a lot of time with regulatory framework. We wanted something that was end-to-end for the customer and that created an ecosystem between insurance companies, labs, pharmacies and service providers (online and offline). We started with B2B tests in Estonia and noticed that about 80% of the cases could be solved digitally, saving a lot of time for customers. These digital visits were also vastly more affordable than physical ones and if a specialist was required, it was far better to have patients referred to the right specialist directly through a digital consultation.
“it’s clear that without a type of
technology like ours, they really
can’t stay competitive in more
than 5 years”
All in all, we achieved a loss ratio of 10.8% with AmTrust which is something that isn’t really ever seen in private health. The next thing we did was move fast and sign with the biggest insurance company in Scandinavia and extend our coverage. We were providing more than 40% improved loss ratio with 100% contract renewal… so no churn at all. With excellent customer engagement, 40% of customers were using our app on a monthly basis and we achieved an uncommon 4.8/5 rating. Insurance companies really appreciated the customer journey being end-to-end that offered no need for commuting or going to a waiting room.
We’re seeing insurance companies heading more and more towards digitization and based on the metrics we’ve gathered so far, it’s clear that without a type of technology like ours, they really can’t stay competitive in more than 5 years. What currently have cooperation with 9 insurance companies, which take all their customers to our platform – and this is only a start.
What would you say was the most difficult part of creating this ecosystem of communication between doctors, pharmacies, clinics, specialists? It must be a fairly complex system to navigate.
“Most didn’t fully understand what
percentage of doctor visits could be
In the beginning, the most difficult aspect was selling the concept of the future of private health insurance to insurance companies. Most didn’t fully understand what percentage of doctor visits could be done digitally and even for doctors, it wasn’t until Covid hit where they started wanting to use this type of technology to keep themselves and their patients safe. This had the added benefit of making it much easier for doctors to be efficient with their time.
You said that to stay competitive, insurance companies will need to adopt this type of technology in at least 5 years. Do you think this same timeframe would’ve existed without Covid or a similar global emergency?
I think Covid definitely accelerated this digitization, especially for health visits, but it’s not only about the digitization, but also about combining the ecosystem into one place, exposing and fixing the inefficiencies of the whole ecosystem.
What do you think is currently missing? Whether within health insurance in general or something specifically that Viveo doesn’t offer yet?
When I think about the insurance system, people usually renew their contract once a year. There’s no engagement and there’s a lack of looking into what does or doesn’t work. One of the biggest challenges for Viveo, while still in the early days, is to start a fast cooperation with insurance companies. The business centric sales cycle of old, where you take customers from other competitors isn’t the way it used to be. There are other challenges for Viveo, such as acquiring the best talent – it requires us to search for the best people from all over the world.
For insurance, there’s not a lot of engagement throughout the cycle because you’re usually paying for the assurance that if something does go wrong, you’re covered. Do you think there’s other, perhaps better, ways of connecting with customers in a more proactive way?
I think in a way, that if the journey to a doctor isn’t easy – you only consult with a doctor when you’re already feeling ill, and you miss a lot of treatments that could have potentially take care of something earlier before it became worse. In many cases, reaching a doctor requires a lot of research and it can be complicated which postpones people from an early diagnosis. When symptoms are already really bad, it will likely be much more expensive to take care of it and that reflects back onto to the insurance company.
“The customer engagement programs
we’ve developed… allows a person
to make their decisions more accurately.”
The customer engagement programs we’ve developed, like giving health advice and personalizing the treatment of each user while giving easy access to health data, allows a person to make their decisions more accurately.
Do you think a collection of quantitative data about individuals could also possibly be used to treat people early on in a much more proactive way than we’re seeing currently?
I believe that healthcare should be very personal, and data driven. Using collected information, combined with an eHealth record, a doctor can have a very clear picture of an individual’s present-day health. I believe the next step will be combine this with genomic data. If we have all these data points, it’s possible to know more before a person’s health starts to decline. Research shouldn’t separate where doctors are doing one thing, scientists another and data scientists something else – they need to be combined.
I see one of the biggest untapped areas for digital health is in the field of mental health. As the general quality of life improves, there’s a growing level of societal pressure which brings upon new mental health struggles. These types of issues could theoretically be usually handled digitally. Would you agree that this instance access to healthcare could break down the barriers of seeking out mental healthcare?
Exactly, if you don’t need to spend so much time commuting to see a doctor, you can save a lot of time and prevent yourself from the extra mental burden dealing with more things. Being able to get second opinions in a flash also helps people feel more at ease.
With over 25 years in insurance, is there a particular point in your career that you’re most proud of?
I think the highlight probably came a few years after I started my insurance business. At first it was incredibly hard to compete with the bigger companies. We understood we needed to learn more, make connections and become specialized in a few fields. We focused on more complicated issues and attempted to make them clearer. We traveled throughout Europe and built ourselves a strong network.
Almost everyone we met thought we were in a different league from other players in the market which helped to make us grow quickly. We were able to give large, global companies some significant competition. Being able to win over business from these extremely large companies will always be one of my biggest accomplishments, but possibly what I’m most proud of is being able to deliver more than we promised. We always wanted to offer packages that would make people’s lives easier and really understood each situation.
Is there something you’re particularly excited for in regard to healthcare technology that we haven’t quite reached yet, but you see as on the horizon?
For me, the most exciting thing is knowing that we currently have the technology to make each and every private insurance provider completely digital. The efficiencies we bring can drop rates while providing a better service.
From a technological standpoint, if you take the whole ecosystem, we can make pricing so dynamic that every little change directly affects the cost of insurance. Getting healthcare more and more data driven really needs to be the next step in the process. Having more advanced AI that can provide accurate and useful information to each person.