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'Health age' app wins Japan's 1st 'insurtech' contest

Japan Medical Data's tech instantly calculates health status, future medical bills

TOKYO -- With its smartphone app that instantly measures a person's "health age," medical data analytics company Japan Medical Data Center won the first-ever business contest held by the Japanese insurance industry.

The service, which is still in the beta phase, requires users to first take a photo of their health checkup data. That data is then automatically digitized and sent to JMDC, where it is checked against a database containing 1.6 million points of data on health exams and medical prescriptions. It instantly calculates the user's health age -- defined by the company as an indicator of a person's overall well-being -- and provides advice on how to become healthier.

It also estimates the medical costs the users will likely incur over a year if they do not improve their health.

Eighteen companies entered the contest, hosted by Dai-ichi Life Insurance, Japan Post Insurance and NTT Data.

"The life insurance industry has until now provided services to prepare for risks in everyday life," said Takako Kitahori, one of the judges and general manager of the marketing strategy department at Dai-ichi Life. "But what is required of the industry now is to provide solutions for bettering people's everyday lives. [JMDC's] service resonates with that."

The field of "insurtech," a portmanteau of the words "technology" and "insurance," has grown in recent years. In 2015, prominent U.S. venture capital company Andreesen Horowitz cited developments in the insurance sector as being among the 16 trends it is closely watching. Last year, U.S. insurance startup Lemonade attracted wide attention by signing partnerships with the likes of Lloyd's of London and Warren Buffet's Berkshire Hathaway.

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