One woman’s mission to disrupt the health industry


One woman’s mission to disrupt the health industry

Health, as a global problem, is growing. Asia is no exception – 80% of deaths are from lifestyle diseases. Diabetes in India has doubled in the last 15 years and 4.5 million Filipinos suffer from depression.

It is no wonder then that in the Southeast Asia region, the health insurance industry is expected to grow at an annual rate of 15% to $24 billion by the end of the decade, quadrupling from $6 billion in 2010. But the concept of health insurance remains a reactive measure rather than a preventive one.

One passionate self-starter is changing that, and is making a profitable business out of it. Founder and CEO Rosaline Chow Koo put her entire life savings coupled with a huge loan from the bank to build her passion project – ConneXionsAsia (CXA). We had an opportunity to chat with her in person to get her thoughts on health in the workplace, particularly in Asia.

A flexible insurance plan tailored to your needs

The concept is simple – each employee’s health is assessed and a benefits wallet comprised of the money spent on company insurance and other allowances will give them flexibility to decide if they need protection, treatment, prevention or chronic disease management.

“We’re trying to actually shift the money, especially when there’s excess insurance, into prevention and disease management,” says Rosaline. For example, a young person doesn’t need as much insurance and can instead use the money for yoga, mindfulness, vision-care and personal development. Married employees who are already covered by their spouses insurance, could rather spend it on maternity, pediatrics, dental care and health screenings.

Combating Asia’s “Silent Killer” – Diabetes

Chronic diseases like diabetes are rising in Asia at an unprecedented rate, and they’re hitting Asia roughly 10 years before the west. It is estimated that type 2 diabetes in South Asia will rise more than 150% between 2000 and 2035. What this means for companies is that the premiums they pay for insurance are doubling every three to five years.

She hopes to reverse this trend, which is in line with the UN’s sustainable development goal that hopes to reduce national and global health risks. One way she has done this is by coordinating onsite health screenings, diabetes management, corporate wellness competitions, yoga at work, and of course, education.

“Work is where most people spend their time, so every employer has every incentive to make their employees healthier, so this is this is the way to do it,” she says.

Putting depression and anxiety in the spotlight

But it is not only physical well being that she is concerned with. Mental wellbeing is sometimes overlooked, and conditions like depression and anxiety can go undiagnosed and are more often than not, underreported.

“In the workplace, we’ve actually been bringing a lot of mindfulness into the workplace so that people learn how to react to stressful events and how to put perspective on it, and how to handle things that happen so it doesn’t drag you down,” she said with optimism.

Reduce costs, Improve health

CXA uses data from employees’ health screening results and health risks to predict the trajectory of insurance claims. Based on this, their predictive cost model can actually help firms focus on the relevant interventions to reduce the overall healthcare costs.

CXA is working with reinsurers to bring down the future premium of insurance policies as an incentive for employers to empower their employees to become healthier. Having only launched two years ago, companies have shown very high participation and the results are telling – over 500 companies use CXA in Singapore alone.

And the benefit is not for the companies alone, employees have changed their lives in the process. “Some employees have actually improved their diabetes results or have lost weight from the last health screening”, notes Rosaline.

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Untapped business opportunity in the health industry

Not surprisingly, Rosaline might not be the only one disrupting the health industry. The LeapForGood programme under The Singapore Centre for Social Enterprise is a programme aimed at raising awareness for under-met emerging social needs in Singapore.

The theme for 2016 is Elder-care and Mental Health and participants will be challenged to come up with innovative ideas on tackling these problems. They will go through the entire startup incubation process from the ideation to the final implementation.

Globally, there are already startups like bluedot and Noora Health that have successfully made a business out of trying to improve the health industry. And why not? The health industry is worth over a whopping 1 trillion dollars.

So who said that profits and social responsibility are in constant conflict?

This article is part of our monthly series of insights to help business leaders discover business value through a social and environmental purpose.

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Nicholas Eng

Born and raised in Singapore, Nicholas believes that it is not about changing the world, but making the first step to change the world around you. He enjoys hosting, writing, and film-making. Passionate about social causes, he truly feels that the world is his oyster.

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