For health insurance advisers, communicating the breadth of value within available services while managing client expectations can be a challenge. Especially given the rapidly changing healthcare landscape throughout the pandemic and the evolving nature of private medical insurance (PMI) propositions.
However, the Covid-19 pandemic is helping many clients to realise that online health services - such as virtual GPs and digital diagnostics - are here to stay, particularly when it comes to empowering individuals to take charge of their own healthcare journey; even if it is from the comfort of their own home.
While access to primary care might be the first aspect of this transaction, the customer journey should - and can - start much earlier, believes Dr Keith Klintworth, managing director of VitalityHealth.
Vitality data shows members who are more engaged with the Vitality Programme - which incentivises members to make healthier lifestyle choices - on average benefit from a 1.5 year improvement in life expectancy
By gaining an understanding of a client's health earlier and encouraging them to be active and to live healthily from the outset of a plan, an insurer can play a key role in helping to prevent the onset of serious illness, Klintworth explains. Global research shows that four types of behaviour - poor diet, physical activity, tobacco use, and excess alcohol intake - cause preventable diseases which lead to 60% of deaths worldwide.
Yet Vitality data shows members who are more engaged with the Vitality Programme - which incentivises members to make healthier lifestyle choices - on average benefit from a 1.5 year improvement in life expectancy. Highly active members reduce their risk of hospitalisation by as much as 50%. These positive outcomes have also been evident throughout the pandemic, with those who engage with the behavioural changes of the Vitality Programme showing 81% lower risk of dying after contracting Covid-19 than those who don't.
Prevention is better than cure
Even our own Prime Minister took note of this following a near-death experience with Covid-19 in 2020. The publicity surrounding the fact that overweight people are more likely to die or become seriously ill from Covid-19 helped to highlight the dangers of obesity in general. Mainly because this same basic principle applies to other illnesses too: if you are unhealthy or ‘at risk', it is more likely you will be less able to fight - and bounce back from - infection. Last month saw the government itself announce plans for a pilot scheme to help people exercise more and eat better using a range incentives and rewards.
For Vitality, this is nothing new. Prevention has been a priority since it launched in 2004, but this year it took this a step further by transforming its member-driven approach to PMI that combines the principles of Shared Value Insurance with enhanced digital care services and remote health management capabilities.
A positively different approach
Foundational to Vitality's approach is its Healthy Living Programme, which through rewards and benefits allows members to achieve better health, enjoy tangible financial value and receive an enhanced insurance offering.
In 2015, the insurer was the first to introduce private GP consultations and other digital care services which empower members to access the right treatment as quickly as possible. Its Digital Care offering today provides a suite of digital care services including Vitality GP, remote physiotherapy and online cognitive behavioural therapy.
When members do require onward treatment, they have comprehensive cover across out-patient, in-patient and day-patient procedures. Vitality was the first UK health insurer to include a Full Cover Promise as standard, meaning that when your clients are admitted to hospital, they have the complete assurance of no shortfalls for consultant fees.
Prevention has been a priority for Vitality since it launched in 2004, but this year it took this a step further by transforming its member-driven approach to PMI
Underpinning all of this is Vitality's Smart Service approach, which incorporates digital authorisation through its newly enhanced online Care Hub. A platform that offers a fully integrated pathway into digital diagnostics services, such as Skin Analytics via Vitality GP and discounted screening services through its partner Check4Cancer. Remote care pathways for common health conditions are available for physiotherapy through Ascenti and mental health support through My Online Therapy.
There is also Consultant Finder - a service which helps clients to research and book appointments online - and the claims experience has been taken fully digital via the online Care Hub, with many members now able to get instant decisions.
All this plus other innovations, such as predictive resolutions for members requiring assistance and its Claims Concierge, are powered by the Vitality Operating System. Made up of its technology platform and health management system, and bolstered by actuarial, behavioural and clinical data science and deep understanding of the mathematics of Shared Value insurance.
With other aspects of its proposition, such as its Premier Consultant Panel and Cashback, poised to usher in the next phase of Vitality's Shared Value approach to insurance later this year - it appears the future of health insurance may be closer than we think.
 WHO Global Health Risks Report 2009
 Discovery South Africa Covid-19 Special report March 2021
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