Malcolm Cairns explains why a more personalised approach to care will be crucial for future health plans
According to a Kings College London study looking at data from its Covid-19 symptom study app, one in 50 people who have had a Covid diagnosis are suffering from longer-term implications which may be due to the illness. Whether these longer-term implications relate to specific consequences of having had Covid-19 or instead to exacerbation of existing conditions, the long-term impact of Covid-19 is likely to be significant.
Whilst many businesses are focusing on the short-term impact of the pandemic, more consideration is needed for how the longer-term effects are going to change the way we live and work. In the wake of the pandemic, anxiety around healthcare has been heightened and the always available expectation of the NHS has been undermined. With this heightened sense of unease and hospital capacity unlikely to return to pre-Covid levels for a considerable time yet, health offerings will need to adapt. Insurers that will succeed in the long-term will produce offerings that are holistic, connected and hyper-personalised. This in turn will support employers' talent attraction and retention, and result in an engaged and productive workforce.
Although it can be challenging to have to create offerings based on Covid and its changing variables, the one constant is that insurers need to keep the focus around the individual to keep customers engaged.
Insurers should adapt to this new era and create effective, connected, flexible packages that enable employers to take on the challenge of protecting individual employees.
What are the long-term effects?
It is likely that those dealing with longer-term implications of Covid will not only be experiencing these physical problems, but also heightened concerns issues with their mental health - exacerbated by the lockdown recently announced.
Increased anxiety and depression are recognised as a common symptom of the global pandemic - for all, not just those who have had the virus. Coupled with physical aftereffects of the virus, a person's overall wellbeing is likely to be severely impacted.
Insurers must also consider the increased pressure on carers, and those that have lost family members, when creating offerings in the wake of Covid. Both the experience of loss and that of becoming a carer can put tremendous strain on an individuals' wellbeing which, in turn, can have a negative effect on all aspects of their life - including work.
For employers wanting to support their employees through Covid in the long term so they can remain a vital, productive part of the workforce, it is essential that the right health offerings are available to them. As businesses continue to adapt their strategies to support social distancing and reducing transmission, insurers must offer evolved support processes, particularly with regard to health.
How insurers can support those suffering with the long-term impact Covid?
The best way to address challenges amplified by Covid challenges is to focus on hyper-personalisation - the need to adapt services in real time to meet individuals' needs based on their experiences in any given moment of time. As a result, individuals can receive the best care for their personal circumstances at any time of high pressure and difficulties.
Insurers who offer holistic strategies that focus on the individual in times of need, rather than attempting to treat every case in the same way, are reassuring for businesses. This means that an employer knows their employees' personal needs and wellbeing are being protected and they are getting the best value from their policy. Each person will be dealing with different health and wellbeing issues, therefore plans must be multi-dimensional and inclusive, as well as remaining connected to the customer.
Hyper-personalisation can help business
Insurers need to raise awareness that if employers are not looking after their workforce at a hyper-personalised level, it can have an impact commercially. Employees that do not feel adequately supported are more likely to take extra sick days due to poor mental health for example, which can in turn affect other colleagues and stakeholders. Or, they may move to another business where they feel their health will be considered a priority.
Therefore, an investment in value-add health offerings that support individual employees and their personal circumstances will ultimately result in better commercial outcomes, and effective talent retention.
With Covid shining a spotlight on wellbeing and the importance of maintaining employee resilience, there now must be an industry shift at an insurer level to provide services that meet these new customer demands. This is an approach we have championed at Reframe far before the word Covid entered common parlance, and firmly believe this is where the future of health insurance and employee benefits lies.
As well as employers profiting, leading insurers will attract and retain valuable customers by offering cover that delivers proactive and ongoing support for individuals experiencing unexpected and life-changing health events.
Taking on the challenge
Though it can be difficult, given the amount of changes businesses need to make to cope with the pandemic, I cannot stress enough the need to sufficiently tailor insurance packages with the individual in mind. While there will be a big focus on commercial outcomes and making up for the losses of the pandemic, without a well-supported workforce, employers will struggle to bounce back effectively.
Insurers should adapt to this new era and create effective, connected, flexible packages that enable employers to take on the challenge of protecting individual employees in the wake of a global pandemic. By evolving in response to the new needs of the market, insurers can find a way to add value and retain their members at a time when their customers have a close eye on expenditure.
Malcolm Cairns is CEO of Reframe
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A 12-month review of health insurance
Nearly 80% suffering symptoms of mental ill-health
Nearly six in 10