Revamping the Insurance Industry with Blockchains and Smart Contracts

Revamping the Insurance Industry with Blockchains and Smart Contracts

Daniel Hall 21/07/2023
Revamping the Insurance Industry with Blockchains and Smart Contracts

When we talk about blockchain, we often link it with cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin or Ethereum.

However, this simplified view doesn't do justice to the potential of this remarkable technology. Given some high-profile security breaches and volatile crypto markets, public opinion of blockchain isn't the best. In fact, 75% of Americans have reservations regarding the safety and dependability of cryptocurrencies and their underlying technology.

But there's more to blockchain than meets the eye. It's a robust technology that could fundamentally change how we interact, transact, and trust in the modern world.

Smart contracts are another powerful innovation that many don't fully understand. They're self-validating, self-enforcing contracts with agreement conditions coded directly into them. They function within a decentralized blockchain network and can greatly simplify complex processes by removing intermediaries. Despite their potential, concerns about security, regulatory uncertainties, and a general fear of the unknown continue to deter widespread acceptance.

Yet, the skepticism towards blockchain and smart contracts seems more and more at odds with their actual capabilities, especially in the insurance industry. This sector, notorious for its inefficient processes, bureaucratic obstacles, and lack of transparency, could greatly benefit from these technologies.

Imagining the Future

3 Ways Technology Is Impacting the Insurance Sector

Imagine an insurance landscape where fraudulent claims are almost non-existent, policy payouts happen immediately upon verifying an incident, and total transparency is the norm between the insurer and the insured.

That's the promise of blockchain and smart contracts.

Blockchain could bring a level of trust and openness to the insurance industry that is currently lacking, reducing disputes and simplifying the often convoluted claims process. Smart contracts could automate insurance payouts, eliminating delays and adding efficiency to a process often slowed by extensive manual verification.

Revamping Claims Processing

Processing insurance claims is a central activity in the insurance industry. This process usually involves numerous manual tasks like:

  • incident verification

  • policy coverage validation

  • claim amount calculation

  • finalizing the payout

Due to their manual nature, these steps require significant time, human resources, and administrative overhead.

Blockchain and smart contracts could revolutionize this tedious process by enhancing transparency, reducing errors, automating claim validation, enabling immediate payouts, and improving fraud detection capabilities.

The Power of Smart Contracts

In the current system, when an insurable incident occurs, like a car accident or property damage, policyholders must initiate the claim process themselves. They must contact their insurer, fill out forms, and often wait for an adjuster to thoroughly investigate the claim. This process can be burdensome for the policyholder.

Smart contracts could dramatically speed up and simplify this procedure. These digital contracts with preset rules and conditions can automate many steps in the process.

For instance, consider car insurance. Sensors in the vehicle could detect when an accident happens. These sensors could automatically start an insurance claim on the blockchain, eliminating the need for the policyholder to report the accident manually.

Once a claim is activated, the smart contract gets to work. 

It executes the preset terms of the policy, checking the claim's validity against the accident data from the vehicle's sensors. If the claim meets the predetermined conditions, the smart contract initiates the payout process. This entire sequence can happen quickly, without human intervention, significantly reducing the potential for errors or delays.

Promoting Transparency and Trust

As previously mentioned, blockchain can bring an unparalleled level of transparency to the insurance industry. Every action is logged, creating an unchangeable, timestamped record of events:

  • Unalterable Records – Once an action or transaction is recorded on the blockchain, it becomes permanent and cannot be changed or deleted. This guarantees the authenticity of the records.

  • Chronological History – The blockchain records actions in order, creating an accurate timeline of events.

  • Transparent Claims Process – With blockchain, all actions related to a policy or claim are recorded and visible to all parties. Both insurers and policyholders can see the process unfold in real time, reducing misunderstandings and disputes.

Reducing Fraud

In the U.S. alone, insurance fraud costs companies an estimated $40 billion to $308 billion per year. Blockchain could significantly reduce this figure. Its immutable record-keeping capabilities make it much more challenging for fraudsters to manipulate information.

Insurers can leverage blockchain to create a comprehensive repository of customer information, claims history, and transaction records. This centralized and immutable database enables effective analysis of patterns and anomalies, enabling early detection of fraudulent activities.

Blockchain-based consortiums can be established, bringing together insurance companies, law enforcement agencies, and regulatory bodies. These consortiums help these groups share information and collaborate, so fraudulent activities can be swiftly identified across the industry.

The Implementation Challenges for Blockchain

3 Use Cases for Blockchain in the Utility Sector

As promising as blockchain and smart contracts sound, they aren't without challenges. The three primary hurdles to their widespread adoption in the insurance industry are technological maturity, regulatory uncertainties, and adoption barriers.

1. Technological Maturity

Blockchain and smart contract technologies are still in the maturation phase. While these technologies have found successful applications in various industries, their utilization in insurance remains relatively unexplored. Several technical hurdles need to be addressed, including system interoperability, security, and scalability.

  • System interoperability – Many insurance companies have legacy systems that may not be compatible with blockchain technology. Ensuring smooth integration with existing systems is a significant undertaking.

  • Security – While blockchain networks are generally secure, vulnerabilities can still arise, especially with regard to private key management. Insurance companies need to be sure that these networks can adequately protect sensitive customer data.

  • Scalability – With each new transaction added to a blockchain, its size expands, potentially leading to decreased processing speed. This poses a significant challenge for insurance companies that routinely manage a substantial volume of daily transactions. 

2. Regulatory Uncertainties

The regulatory landscape for blockchain and smart contracts is also unclear. Since these technologies are relatively new, many countries lack clear regulations governing their use. Regulatory bodies worldwide are still grappling with how to approach these technologies, and the uncertainty can be a deterrent for insurance companies.

3. Adoption Barriers

Last but not least are adoption barriers. Just like any emerging technology, persuading individuals to embrace and trust blockchain and smart contracts presents its own set of difficulties. There exists a widespread lack of comprehension and trust in these technologies, with many individuals apprehensive about the perceived complexity associated with them.

Additionally, the insurance industry is traditionally slow to adopt new technologies due to its complexity and heavily regulated nature. The transition from the current system to a blockchain and smart contract-based framework will require substantial dedication and time.

Navigating the Future

While the journey towards the widespread implementation of blockchain and smart contracts is fraught with challenges, the prospective benefits make the path not only promising but compelling. These technologies offer a tantalizing peek into a whole new era of insurance.

However, the road to this future will necessitate an unprecedented degree of collaboration between various stakeholders – insurance providers, technology firms, regulatory bodies, and the insured. Building mutual understanding and trust is pivotal for these technologies to reach their full potential.

Progress is likely to be gradual, with trial projects and limited-scope implementations leading the way. These early adopters will have the crucial role of trailblazers, testing the waters and creating guidelines that others can follow. 

In wrapping up, the promise of blockchain and smart contracts for the insurance industry is undeniably exciting. Although the path is marked with obstacles, the reward at the end – a revolutionized insurance landscape characterized by efficiency, reduced fraud, and enhanced trust – makes it a worthy pursuit. 


Special thanks to the co-author: Olga Vinichuk, Business Analyst and Insurance IT Consultant at ScienceSoft

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Daniel Hall

Business Expert

Daniel Hall is an experienced digital marketer, author and world traveller. He spends a lot of his free time flipping through books and learning about a plethora of topics.

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