Verily, John Hancock collaborating on life insurance solution that offers virtual diabetes management

Michelle Caruso-Cabrera (left), a CNBC contributor, interviews John Hancock Insurance's Brooks Tingle, Tracey Brown from the American Diabetes Association, Verily CEO Andy Conrad and Tufts University professor Dariush Mozaffarian. (John Hancock)

NEW YORK CITY—Life insurance company John Hancock is teaming up with Verily Life Sciences to offer a life insurance solution and digital wellness program to help people with diabetes manage and improve their condition.

The new product, John Hancock Aspire, is a unique collaboration between the Boston-based life insurer and Verily, the healthcare division of Google parent company Alphabet, and will leverage the capabilities of Onduo, a virtual diabetes clinic.

Onduo is a joint venture between Verily and drugmaker Sanofi.that was spun off in 2016 and now partners with health insurers like Blue Cross Blue Shield to provide chronic care management to plan members with diabetes. Onduo also is collaborating with Walgreens on a virtual diabetes and medication adherence solution for the company's employees.

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RELATED: Blue Cross Blue Shield Association partners with Google affiliate for diabetes care pilot

Through the collaboration with Verily and Onduo, John Hancock is offering consumers living with diabetes a life insurance plan combined with a technology-enabled wellness program that provides coaching, clinical support, education and rewards designed to help manage and improve their health. Plan members have the potential to save up to 25% on their premiums, according to the company.

Qualifying John Hancock Aspire customers with Type 2 diabetes will get access to Onduo's virtual clinic, which includes blood glucose monitoring devices paired with the Onduo app, and will be connected to Onduo's virtual care team for personalized guidance and support.

During an event in Manhattan Monday to announce the new partnership, Andy Conrad, Verily's CEO, said it was a "daring" collaboration that presented an opportunity to scale up Onduo's virtual diabetes clinic.

"Through this initiative, Verily and John Hancock are pushing the envelope on the role life insurance can play in both providing financial security and helping people live longer, healthier lives," Conrad said. 

"This is a great opportunity to do this at scale and in a clever, thoughtful and different way," he said.

Brooks Tingle, president and CEO of John Hancock Insurance, said his industry hasn't traditionally served people living with diabetes well. 

"We're actually among the most uniquely positioned to help improve their health outcomes because our customer relationships often last a lifetime," he said.

RELATED: Walgreens and Verily announce partnerships for diabetes, medication adherence

Tingle told FierceHealthcare the company saw an opportunity to work with a leading technology company to leverage a personalized approach to disease management and make life insurance more personalized and engaging.

"There are wonderful solutions out there and wanted to take those and plug them into a life insurance policy. We're trying to make life insurance as much about living as dying," he said.

"The organizations that will have the greatest impact on healthcare will be companies like Google," Tingle said. "These companies are making significant investments to use technology and analytics to improve health outcomes."

Google's work with Verily was driven by a desire to do "world-changing projects," Conrad said. "In areas like healthcare, we wanted to change the paradigm from an episodic perspective to prevention." The collaboration with John Hancock fits into that mission, he noted.

The two companies could potentially expand the partnership to other chronic diseases such as hypertension or depression, Conrad said.

Tackling disease management

For John Hancock Insurance, the more than 30 million Americans living with diabetes represent a sizable market opportunity. Half of those consumers either don't have enough life insurance or don't have any life insurance coverage at all, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Diabetes remains the seventh leading cause of death in the U.S., with 1.5 million Americans diagnosed every year, according to the American Diabetes Association.

Former emergency medicine physician Joshua Riff, M.D., now CEO of Onduo, said he joined the Verily-Sanofi joint venture because he saw firsthand the toll of chronic disease on patients.

RELATED: Alphabet's Verily collaborating with Atrius Health, Palo Alto VA on population health projects

The majority of patients he saw in the emergency room had some form of chronic disease or complications due to their disease, he said. "Why are they coming to see me? When I would ask, I would hear the same story. Patients would say 'I have a hard time getting to my doctor.' 'I only see my doctor a few times a year, but I live with this disease 365 days a year and I have no support or guidance.'"

Onduo's platform was developed to transform how chronic care is delivered, Riff said, with a focus on health monitoring and tracking, personalized guidance and access to care teams. "It's designed to support people where they are and on their terms," he said.

"It's rare to be a part of something where all the incentives are aligned," Jessica Mega, M.D., chief medical officer at Verily, told FierceHealthcare. She noted that the program provides incentives and rewards that support consumers' financial health and physical health and well-being. And Onduo's technology platform uses data to tailor guidance and support to each patient, she said.

"The fact that the medical community is now embracing this is important. We're empowering patients to help them make healthier choices," she said.

Verily, originally Google Life Sciences, once part of Google X, spun out in 2015 to lead Alphabet’s healthcare and life sciences research. The company has been quietly expanding its footprint in the world of healthcare and collaborating with health systems and other providers on initiatives to tackle major health challenges.

The company recently announced it was teaming up with Atrius Health and the Palo Alto Veterans Affairs healthcare system to improve patient outcomes through population health initiatives.

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