Benenden Health CEO Bob Andrews discusses game-changing health technology and why there is no one-size-fits-all solution to health insurance
As the UK’s second national lockdown continues, the healthcare sector remains under great strain. The pandemic continues to impact every aspect of our day-to-day lives with changes to the economy, working habits and the healthcare system.
With scheduled operations cancelled because of the squeeze on hospital capacity and staffing, it’s no surprise that an increasing number of people in the UK are opting for private healthcare for a range of procedures, to ensure that treatments can still go ahead.
I believe the unprecedented challenges we have faced as a nation over the last eight months will have a lasting impact on the way we think about our own personal health, as we become increasingly concerned about how our lifestyles may impact our long-term wellbeing, as well as our financial stability.
It will be vital that individuals take greater accountability for their future wellbeing, and the market is likely to see more personalised healthcare and insurance options available to cater to that need.
The future of health insurance must allow individuals to take more responsibility for their health, and we must see greater recognition that one size does not fit all when it comes to healthcare.
Ethically sound private healthcare provision can play an extremely beneficial role in a mixed economy and helps to guarantee that individuals receive the support they need, when and how they need it.
Private healthcare not only offers great support to families and businesses but to our NHS too. The provision of private healthcare should not be in direct competition with the NHS, nor the expensive luxury it is often perceived as. Health insurance doesn’t need to be costly – instead, it should be a crucial part of the matrix to keep the nation healthy.
It is increasingly important to ensure that people can choose the services they want as part of their personal healthcare package, and we are likely to see a greater movement towards a more “tick-box” approach whereby individuals can select the specific cover they need. This personalised approach could mean that individuals will turn to different providers for different elements of their package, rather than having everything in one place.
It is critical that individuals are well informed to make choices about their own health, to protect themselves now and into later life. Not only should health insurance be something that people think about when they get ill, it should also be an important, proactive investment that individuals choose to make for their own future.
Businesses are increasingly offering bespoke healthcare packages for all employees, rather than just for very senior members of staff. The financial impact of the pandemic has led businesses to focus more on delivering effective, tailored benefits for all employees. The multi-generational nature of the workforce also means that employees will have differing needs – emphasising the point that one size-fits-all healthcare is not appropriate.
Benenden Health’s recent mental health report revealed that younger workers value mental wellbeing support the most, with a whopping 78 per cent of 18- to 24-year-olds saying they would leave a job if they did not feel adequately supported, making this a critical business decision and one that makes financial sense.
Game-changing health tech
Throughout the pandemic it is vital that individuals still have full access to the support and advice they need to remain safe and healthy.
Since the first lockdown in March, many healthcare providers have switched their services to digital offerings, ensuring that members receive the support they need in an environment where they feel most comfortable. At Benenden Health, we have been able to offer a 24/7 GP helpline and 24/7 mental health helpline for several years to ensure that our members always have access to support and advice, so we were well placed to adapt.
We also considered how services such as physiotherapy could be offered remotely, as while online fitness classes and GP services have been increasingly popular with the more tech-savvy, it is crucial that we can offer alternative services for those without access to this, so they do not feel isolated.
Insurance providers are also increasingly offering incentives for people to sign up, with rewards for staying healthy. At Benenden Health, we offer our members great discounts on digital fitness subscriptions, activity trackers and lifestyle shopping vouchers throughout their membership. I think this highlights a greater switch towards preventative action and the use of data when it comes to health insurance, as individuals want to know they have this support available but are becoming more committed to staying healthy themselves, and are rewarded for doing so.
I believe technology can be a game-changer for healthcare with so many options available – from new gadgets to aid remote services or track exercise and heart rate, to sensors or pressure pads to monitor vulnerable people. We were already making great movements in how we use technology to monitor our health even before the pandemic hit, but this is likely to accelerate adoption further with greater consciousness about our health and the safety of our loved ones.
As healthcare becomes more tech-focused, it is possible we’ll see new players in the market such as Amazon, Google and Apple, but the question remains whether something as important as healthcare can be put in the hands of organisations that do not have experience and existing trust within the sector.
Health technology will enable individuals to receive the support and services they need at the touch of a button and allows people to be more aware of their health. More technology in the home is also likely to provide an opportunity for vulnerable people to remain in their home for longer as family members can remotely check they are safe and be alerted to any warning signs.
The future of private healthcare insurance will see this technology and data put to good use, and we will also see more cooperation between providers in the coming years. Crucially, however, whoever you are and whatever your circumstances, you will be able to build a package that works specifically for you.
Healthcare will become more flexible, be delivered in the way you want it and be affordable for everyone. By taking responsibility and investing in our own personal wellbeing, together we will improve the nation’s health.
Benenden Health offers affordable, high quality, discretionary private healthcare to both its consumer and corporate members. This includes round-the-clock care such as 24/7 GP and mental health helplines, plus speedy access to services such as physiotherapy and medical treatment so individuals can have peace of mind that they can ask for help whenever they need it. As a not-for-profit organisation, Benenden Health offers support to its more than 800,000 members at the same affordable cost of just £11.50 per member per month.