As part of efforts to tap into digital health startups, Sun Life Financial Inc. has announced the formation of a new business area called digital health solutions.

The idea, says Sun Life president Kevin Dougherty, is to curate “the best of the best” of emerging digital health products and services in order to connect plan members to them. “This is really a personalized way to connect with Canadians on health matters that matter to them,” says Dougherty.

Chris Denys, most recently chief financial officer for Sun Life in Canada, will helm the new team as senior vice-president of possibilities and digital health solutions. Dougherty says the team’s work will roll out over the next six to 12 months across the company’s platforms, including its website, mobile application and call centres.

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As an example of the sorts of things plan members might see, Dougherty cites a notification to someone who has just turned 50 suggesting a visit to the doctor to check for certain health issues. In other situations, those with diabetes might get a notification to get their eyes checked. The team will draw on the capabilities of Sun Life’s digital benefits assistant, a technology launched by the company last year that uses analytics and big data to help plan members make decisions about their benefits. Dougherty says that through the new team’s efforts, Sun Life will look to connect employees to the right providers and could potentially highlight and rate them.

While Sun Life could also link to benefits plans themselves through the curation work, Dougherty says the idea for the moment is about providing access by giving people an “easier way to find health-care products and services.” For plan sponsors, he says the efforts will help them with their work to maintain a healthy workforce and boost employee engagement.

Read: Time for plan sponsors to embrace digital innovations in health care

The new team follows Sun Life’s recent announcement that it will tapping into the expertise of Silicon Valley through a partnership with the Plug and Play Tech Centre, a startup platform that incubated PayPal. As a corporate partner, Sun Life will be able to send its executives and other leaders to provide direction to the startups going through Plug and Play’s program. It will also have the chance to invest in or purchase ideas of interest.

Copyright © 2018 Transcontinental Media G.P. Originally published on

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