In light of the pandemic and the challenges we currently face as a nation, people are demanding broader health support, as well as access to traditional healthcare.
Our Health Claims Insights Report, published last year, revealed how primary care, such as private GPs and access to mental health support, is fast becoming an increasingly important part of private medical insurance (PMI). Primary care services accounted for more than 40% of all our health claims in 2021, compared to 10% in 2015 - when we were the first to introduce virtual GPs to the health insurance market.
Alongside this, our health claims data also shows how influencing healthy behaviour change through rewards and incentives is really having an impact. Not only when it comes to improving outcomes, but also by reducing healthcare costs and ultimately helping people live longer in better health.
But a truly preventative approach to healthcare doesn't just start with positive lifestyle choices - such as increasing physical activity levels and nutrition - it can go much further; through clinical screening and early intervention, as well as support during and after treatment to help avoid a condition reoccurring, as part of an end-to-end journey.
This is a concept we're calling Prevention 2.0. By putting prevention at the heart of a PMI proposition, we believe the health insurance sector can - and must - play an integral role in helping reduce the overall healthcare burden at a time when the NHS is under severe pressure.
Prevention 2.0 is about more than just promoting wellbeing. It is incorporating prevention at every stage - before, during and after treatment.
Dr Keith Klintworth, Managing Director
Managing lifestyle risk factors
With 88% of preventable disease in the UK down to lifestyle-related factors, such as lack of exercise, poor nutrition and poor mental health, helping people to lead healthier lives is crucial in driving better healthcare outcomes.
Most of us know that we might need to do more exercise, eat better, cut down on our alcohol intake or quit smoking. The challenges we often face though are in making those positive lifestyle changes and making them stick.
Since day one, we've recognised that the key to helping our members lead healthier lives is driving positive change through an incentive-based rewards programme based on the laws of behavioural science. This approach has been central to how we drive up engagement and help members to build long-term positive lifestyle changes.
As our claims report highlighted, we're seeing this approach really pay off. Analysis of VitalityHealth claims between 2017 and 2021 showed up to 46% lower claims costs for highly engaged members across major claims categories. Data from our parent company Discovery also shows those who were more physically active before being diagnosed with breast cancer or prostate cancer have nearly 50% better chance of survival.
As PMI products evolve and place a greater emphasis on the prevention of disease, the clinical side of health cover is just as important as managing and improving lifestyle factors.
This requires additional focus on clinical risk factors, as well as more effective disease management and identification. This is less about preventing the onset of disease, but more about driving better healthcare outcomes when someone does fall ill, through a range of effective measures and interventions.
With healthcare systems tending to invest more heavily in treatment and care, sometimes at the expense of earlier clinical interventions and more effective screening, this is an area where health insurers can really lead the way.
Better health outcomes
Screening services form a key element of our preventative strategy and can help drive positive health, wellbeing and treatment outcomes.
When it comes to lifestyle health factors, annual health MOT checks help give members a clearer picture of their health and any areas that may need improvement.
We can also use the results of these annual checks to drive personalised programmes of lifestyle related support, as we've been rolling out with our ‘Next Best Action' initiative. This is about empowering people with a better understanding of their health, focusing on the areas that most need improvement and providing the tools to drive positive lifestyle change - be it 121 coaching to support weight loss or help quitting smoking - and incentivising them to do so.
At a clinical level, screening plays an important role too in disease management and identification. This is an area where private health insurance can provide powerful, evidence-based services, increasingly utilising technology as a facilitator to improve access and drive down costs.
For example, Vitality has partnered with Skin Analytics since 2015 to provide members with access to skin cancer screening services, through the use of smartphone technology, alongside the development of AI-powered skin cancer detection tools.
Central to what we're developing at Vitality is a complete end-to-end healthcare proposition, which can support the member through their whole healthcare journey and stand more chance of living in the best possible health.
For those that are diagnosed with an illness such as heart disease or cancer, or living with a chronic condition like diabetes, it's important that as well as treating the condition, we address their overall health and wellbeing.
An individual being in good health, aside from reducing the likelihood of a claim arising in the first place, will also have a big impact on the success of treatment outcomes for those who do need to undergo treatment.
Improving someone's baseline health, as part of a broad package of holistic treatment can drive significant wellbeing benefits linked with treatment and rehabilitation.
A good example of this can be found in our partnership with OnkoHealth, where we support cancer patients to be in the best possible health, through fitness and wellbeing support, whilst living with and undergoing treatment for their condition. As shown by Kirsten's story here.
Ultimately, it is about recognising the impact that a preventative based approach can have both on the individual and the general health of our nation as a whole. By delivering a complete end-to-end health insurance proposition, that supports the individual through their healthcare journey, it is our aim to ensure our members remain in good health, for longer. And get the right holistic support when they need it - before, during and after treatment.
Find out more about how Vitality's private medical insurance can help your clients to live healthier lives and provide fast access to care when they need it here.
A version of this article originally appear on Vitality Insights Hub
This post is funded by Vitality
 1. Global Burden of Disease database; Williamson, E., Walker, A. J., Bhaskaran, K. J., Bacon, S., Bates, C., Morton, C. E., ... & Cockburn, J. (2020)
 Vitality Health Claims & Insights Report 2022