Data ownership has always been a hot topic with insurers, distributors, data providers, and policy holders claiming right to some or all of the data. The volume of the discussion of this has risen with the increase in importance of data to the profitability of the business. An alternative is emerging which sounds a bit zen-like: “Because everyone owns it, it belongs truly to no one.” We’d like to know what you think.
Why does data matter more now than ever …
At a recent meeting, the Insurance 2023 working group was discussing the impact of more and better data on the insurance industry over the next decade. One of the group members suggested that insurers are realizing that they are as much in the information business as they are in the risk taking business, because more/better data is correlating with more/better results. So insurers will likely focus more on access to data and automated processes to improve data analysis and use.
But automated data management is not sufficient. Other group members suggested that personal relationships are critical to the business. This has classically been the purview of distributors. Direct marketers are understanding the importance of face to face availability. For example, Canadian banks, who likely have some of the best data gathering, analytic, and call centre tools are investing in re-opening local branches with extended hours. The primary purpose of this is to reestablish personal relationships with customers.
We have noted elsewhere that the social media, whose business is to monetize behavioural and operational data, have expressed interest in insurance and have become major competitors in the insurance quote aggregation business in the UK.
The bottom line: Data and its usage are more important than ever.
So who owns these assets ….
It is fair to say that everyone in the value chain – insurers, distributors, third party information providers, aggregators, and others – have interest in different data segments. However, ownership (and control and governance) are different matters.
Insureds, independently and through groups such as consumer associations, have strong opinions about the amount of private data that can be stored and used. Governments have agreed, and enacted legislation, such as PIPEDA to control how electronic information is stored and used.
Do we need King Solomon or the Zen Master to decide how to share the data?
The health industry (including health insurance) has been on the leading edge of privacy and data usage. In a recent article, Health Business Daily editor, Jane Anderson wrote that data ownership is a critical question for accountable care organizations (groups of health care providers who agree to meet standards of accountability to Medicare in the US).
Anderson cites a discussion she had with Erik Johnson, senior vice president at Avalere Health LLC. After reviewing the options for satisfying the numerous, conflicting requirements of groups such as health care providers, administrators, third party service organizations, patients, and the government with Johnson, Anderson writes:
There’s an emerging concept of a public trust for health information, in which ACOs and other health entities would merge all their data under the umbrella of an independent, potentially nonprofit group that would store it and make it available to all. That model may offer the best way to thread the needle between the various interests of the different stakeholders, Johnson says.
This seems to have merit in allowing access to a trusted source based on need. It also allows for a single source of the truth. However, it also seems to fly in the face of organizations viewing data as proprietary.
So we’d like your thoughts. Was data born free, forever seeking to return to that state, or does ownership convey privilege that will be maintained at all cost?