How the Covid-19 pandemic has caused a shift in the insurance space
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How the Covid-19 pandemic has caused a shift in the insurance space

How the Covid-19 pandemic has caused a shift in the insurance space

A year of transformation has affected both insurers and customers

Gulf Business

The Covid-19 pandemic and resulting knock-on effect saw a shift in consumer behaviour, with many industries reacting to the evolving needs of customers overnight.

While 2020 was all about disruption, 2021 has been a year of transition – one in which we are beginning to shape our future instead of reacting to the present. This transition has been ubiquitous, spanning several sectors as they experience tremendous changes in their digital offerings and customer demands. The insurance industry in particular has seen a shift that will have a compelling effect on healthcare, as health and wellbeing is now at the  centre of our attention like never before.

The global pandemic has made health one of the most pressing topics on the world’s agenda and a top priority for many. What we have experienced is an acceleration of healthcare innovation, with significant digital advancement and investment taking place in just over a year. So, what does this mean for insurers, and more importantly, for customers?

Accelerated adoption of digital health services 
Remote health has established itself as the new norm as the UAE saw a 500 per cent overall increase in digital health utilisation between March and September 2020 compared to the same period the year before. As technology continues to become mainstream in healthcare, more than 50 per cent of hospitals in the UAE are using IoT-based solutions which allow the automation of daily tasks and enable effective monitoring and control of connected medical devices.

Digital health has not only offered convenient access to medical services remotely, but it also has the potential to replace traditional hospital visits in the future as it reduces the strain on the healthcare system.

The pandemic also drove us to put new technologies into practice by providing more integrated solutions such as wearables, big data, and AI. Integration allows us to improve our abilities in providing patient care, for example remotely monitoring patients, even after they are discharged.

Importantly, digital health offers convenient access to mental health services with utmost privacy. A survey conducted by Bupa Global at the end of 2020 found that mental health challenges were significantly higher in the UAE compared to the rest of the world. More than a quarter (28 per cent) complained of burnouts, compared to 17 per cent globally, while 21 per cent experienced obsessive or compulsive thoughts, compared to 10 per cent globally. The rapid adoption of digital health proved to be a major success as part of the UAE’s response to providing safe and socially distant interactions for both clinicians and patients. This model reduces costs across the healthcare ecosystem, from patients to insurers
and providers.

Leveraging AI to improve claims management 
As healthcare costs continue to surge with demographic shifts and rise in chronic conditions, insurers are under pressure to manage claims processes efficiently and reduce administrative costs. Customers have made it clear that they will stay with insurance providers who offer seamless services and flexible coverage options.

Wellness initiatives and partnerships 
The lockdowns forced people to stay indoors for most of last year, leading to lower physical activity, isolation leading to loneliness, and other mental health issues. With the rise in digital use across all demo-graphics and a population that is skewed towards younger age groups, there is an opportunity for insurers to connect with a broader section of customers through interactive wellness initiatives. These programmes help improve members’ physical and mental health while encouraging positive lifestyle changes.

By acting as a valued partner in the customer’s health and wellness journey, there is the opportunity for insurers to proactively reduce health claims in the long term.As the UAE sees the return of elective surgeries this year, primary care has become a vital building block towards the country’s healthcare systems and infrastructure. Given the increase in lifestyle dis-eases due to sedentary habits, poor diet, and chronic stress, combined with the current focus on personal wellbeing, there is an opportunity to improve general wellbeing significantly with increased primary care offerings.

While we were already seeing a shift towards personalised healthcare before the pandemic, digital and technological advancements and shifts in consumer behaviour have accelerated this even further. As a result, healthcare will be more inclusive and accessible, with patients able to tailor their care to their own individual needs.

Customer centric insurance 
The pandemic response tested the resilience of insurance companies across the globe. Agile businesses that quickly implemented solutions were able to o er customers uninterrupted care delivery. Going forward, customers will expect a user-friendly, digital-first journey that presents itself as a “super app” all-in-one solution. Insurers who continue to build competencies in this space will be able to seamlessly guide members on their healthcare journey. Intelligent processes are the need of the hour, and insurers are taking significant steps to leverage artificial intelligence for claims management and member engagement. Future focused players will explore business model enhancements that tackle market dynamics in preparation for whatever lies ahead.

Dean Pollard is the general manager of Bupa Global – Africa, India and Middle East

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