Oct 2020

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Embrace change, innovate and adapt

Source: Middle East Insurance Review | Aug 2020

The three ways to generate growth and long-term customer loyalty successfully in the post-pandemic world.
Zahir Sharif, Managing Director, Now Health International 
The COVID-19 pandemic has seen many industries adapt to new ways of working, and the international health insurance sector has been no exception. 
The positive news is that the public health crisis has shed light on the gaps in the health and wellness sector. Consumers increasingly worry about and prioritise their health during these challenging times. Conversely the economic fallout of the pandemic has caused many businesses and families to face financial constraints, which means that insurance providers have to work harder to win customer loyalty.
Key trends in the new norm
There are three key trends that insurers need to respond to if they are to adapt and succeed in the post-pandemic world, namely: an increased focus on well-being supported by accessible platforms; the digitisation of healthcare, including managed care; and the need to address growing cost-containment challenges.
First, the pandemic has resulted in greater attention on the importance of mental health and well-being, particularly in the work place. Latest research shows that three-quarters of employers surveyed have seen an increase in demand for mental health support during the pandemic, and 70% are planning to increase the well-being support they offer staff over the next year.
To ensure long-term success after the pandemic, health insurers need to demonstrate how they can help businesses support their employee’s well-being. This trend was already underway before COVID-19, but insurers need to act quickly if they are to remain competitive in the new normal. For example, as part of our added value services strategy, we recently launched a complimentary Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) for our clients; we see this as particularly important for businesses who may be less able to afford to invest in these services directly.
Second, the pandemic has forced the digitisation of healthcare to step up a gear. Consumers are interacting with healthcare providers differently, with a recent report from PwC’s Health Research Institute showing that 5% of American consumers used telemedicine service for the first time during the pandemic.
This trend is here to stay, and it is vital the health insurance industry adapts accordingly. At Now Health International we have recently launched a number of telemedicine partnerships with medical providers in key markets, including the UAE, to address this immediate need. In the longer term, the industry also needs to leverage new technologies to create a more seamless experience for the customer, from the digitisation of membership cards to remote healthcare management.
Finally, the industry needs to consider ways it can meet ongoing cost containment challenges. Before the pandemic, it was predicted that medical inflation in the UAE would jump to 9.3% in 2020, and latest research from Willis Towers Watson predicts the cost of global healthcare benefits could increase by up to 7% as a result of the pandemic.
Opportunity to thrive 
In the long term, it is essential that we ensure customers can continue to access the vital health protection they need. Insurers will need to think creatively and work with regulators and medical providers to better manage rising healthcare costs. 
We recently launched SimpleCare – a more affordable product to cater to the younger, cost-conscious customer segment. This plan comes with embedded cost-containment measures, including default co-insurances and a tiered network system in the UAE, and we are continuing to look at other ways we can innovate and help keep premiums affordable.
There are many opportunities out there for the international health insurance market to thrive in the post-pandemic world. However, only those that are willing to embrace change, innovate and adapt their business to the new normal will be successful in generating growth and long-term customer loyalty. M 
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