Imagine this scenario: It’s 7:30 AM, and time to leave for work. You normally drop your three-year-old daughter off at day care on your way to the train station. However, this morning she has developed two red, itchy blotches on her face. Is she sick, you wonder? Is it serious? Is she contagious? Looks like you’ll have to keep her out of day care and take her to the pediatrician, and who knows when you’ll be able to get an appointment. Or maybe you’ll just need to go to the doctor’s office and wait to be squeezed in. Either way, you or your spouse will have to miss a partial or full day of work.

But what if things could be done differently, more efficiently, with less time and less anxiety? What if you could use a smartphone app provided by your health insurance company to get background information on rashes, initiate a video consultation with your doctor and schedule an appointment with a highly rated specialist close by who can see your daughter that morning?

If this sounds far-fetched and futuristic, it’s not. In some countries, health insurers already have begun developing such services. Digitalization, the force that has revolutionized music, media, retail, travel and many other industries, is finally coming to healthcare—not just for back-office activities such as billing and claims processing, but to the front lines of patient care. Health insurers can play a leading role in this digital transformation, and those that move quickly and thoughtfully can seize a multibillion-dollar opportunity to contain costs and to help provide better, more efficient, more coordinated and more focused care for consumers (and their children).

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