How blockchain could eliminate pain points in insurance business

November 30, 2018 12:47
Hong Kong-based blockchain startup eMALI.IO, is currently working on blockchain solutions targeting medical insurance claims. Photo: eMALI.IO

Blockchain, the distributed ledger technology, is increasingly seen as a viable solution to inefficiencies and loopholes in businesses. eMALI.IO, a Hong Kong-based blockchain startup, offers the technology to address various issues encountered by industries, particularly in the insurance and regulation technology sectors.

Lawrence Ma, who co-founded the company with Peter Woo in 2016, recently sat down with the Hong Kong Economic Journal to talk about the firm and what it can offer to businesses.

HKEJ: Why did you start a blockchain business in the first place?

Ma: I have a strong interest in mathematics, and after graduating from Cornell University in the United States, I worked as a professor of mathematics at the National University of Singapore (NUS). I was eager to apply mathematics in real life, so I changed my career path and focused on the financial field, managing hedge funds and designing algorithms for futures trading. After the company I worked for was sold, I moved to mainland China to engage in trade finance projects.

About four or five years ago, amid the rising popularity of the cryptocurrency bitcoin, I began looking into the application of blockchain, the underlying technology of cryptocurrency. Around 2016 – I was studying cryptography at the time – I began to think that the theory and the skillset can be used for business. And so so I joined my friend to start the business, eMALI.IO.

Q: Can you explain your company’s business model?

A: We founded the company in 2016, and then we started participating actively in gatherings and meetings in blockchain and bitcoin communities in the region in order to gather the latest knowledge and seek expert advice.

We then joined a global blockchain competition organized by AIA (01299.HK) that year, in which participants were to deploy blockchain technology to provide solutions for the issues in the insurance industry. We won the champion in the corporate group.

We are currently working on developing blockchain applications in the insurance and regulation technology sectors. specializing in identity management, insurance claim management, fraud detection, and regulatory registries.

For now, patients can enjoy medical services from hospitals and clinics free of charge with the medical insurance card issued by insurance companies. After that, the hospital or clinic that provides the service will call for payment from the insurer.

However, that process is now operated manually, making it prone to human error and time-consuming. For the patients, the process is lacking of transparency, prompting them to lose confidence in the insurer.

This November, collaborating with healthcare providers and insurers in the region, we launched our blockchain solution, e-Mediflow or EBT, which deploys the decentralization feature of blockchain technology to increase the transparency and efficiency of the claim process, while protecting the patients' personal information.

Since then, we have been focusing on the development of a more open software system for insurance companies, medical institutions, and patients.

Q: Why do you use blockchain technology instead of other "traditional" or existing technologies to solve the problem?

A: Any business process, including insurance claims, involves many people – insurers, hospitals, patients, etc. – and every party needs to share a lot of information during the process.

If the institutions – the insurers – are using a centralized database approach to store all relevant data, which is their current practice, there will be a lack of communication and information sharing among the stakeholders. This causes each party to spend time and effort on validating information, thereby driving down the efficiency of the system.

A blockchain-powered system is designed to be decentralized, enabling information to be interoperable and solving the validation and communication problems at a low cost. This is certainly more cost-effective than centralized software.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Nov 30

Translation by Ben Ng 

[Chinese version 中文版]

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Hong Kong Economic Journal