Healthcare is set to be one of the top growth areas for 2021 thanks mainly to Covid-19. In most developed economies people have found that State run health agencies have concentrated on Covid, to the extent wehre many other routine screenings, consultations and essential treatments have been put to one side, or delayed by weeks, sometimes months. That means some people have paid a terrible price, and are now facing life-threatening health issues. This is especially true in the case of the over 65s, who already get shuffled to the back of the queue as regards treatment in many countries.
2020 saw a huge spike in enquiries for healthcare plans across the UK. For example Equipsme – who specialise in employee health schemes – reported that they saw a year’s worth of website traffic in May and June 2020. Meanwhile ActiveQuote told IE mag in December that their Private Medical Insurance demand was up 78% in 2020. Another big trend in 2020 was the demand for immediate GP or specialist Consultant appointments online as NHS surgeries simply closed their doors and put the phones on voicemail. Unum reported that there was a 60% rise in demand for GP appointments for example.
TELEMEDICINE CREATES NEW CYBER RISKS
Of course many of the new patients trying virtual GP appointments online for the first time, will also be inexperienced at using the internet. This could leave the door wide open for cyber criminals, so it is something that insurers need to think about when building new schemes and products in 2021.
The way in which healthcare services were delivered and received changed dramatically during 2020, with countries around the world rapidly adopting telemedicine to keep both patients and frontline healthcare workers safe and hospitals from reaching critical capacity. Some reports showed estimates predicting the total number of telehealth encounters to exceed 1 billion before the year drew to a close. There is no sign that the use of telemedicine will see decreased usage in 2021.
The impact of the pandemic on mental health and wellness has been nothing short of devastating. According to the Lancet Journals on Psychiatry, 27% of households in the UK reported increased levels of mental distress during the first month of the first lockdown alone. The demand for mental healthcare services has sparked a wave of new mental telehealth start-ups offering services direct to consumers or partnering with businesses as part of their employee wellness plans.
While these services could provide a lifeline to many, they’re not without risk to patients, businesses, the providers and any insurers providing coverage for these activities. For example, a poorly constructed patient evaluation questionnaire could fail to accurately detect patterns of behaviour that indicate a patient is at risk of harming themselves or others. Tele-mental health companies leveraging poorly trained artificial intelligence driven chatbots to conduct their patient intake process may fail to detect red flags in patient interactions which could lead to the patient receiving incorrect, inadequate or delayed care.
So from a risk management standpoint, it is of paramount importance that companies in the tele-mental space source insurance which provides a robust professional services bodily injury trigger which extends to both healthcare and technology activities.
And of course no telemedicine service comes without cybersecurity risks. While there was, by necessity, a relaxation of some regulations to enable the rapid rollout of these services through the likes of Zoom and Skype, these did open the door for bad actors to exploit vulnerabilities. We’re predicting – and hoping – that 2021 will see a shift away from these standard consumer communication platforms to healthcare specific communication platforms which are equipped with security features such as data encryption, multifactor authentication access and data segregation.
From a loss mitigation standpoint, insurance brokers placing business in the digital healthcare market should be extremely wary of any carrier offering terms of a telemedicine company without providing full limits for cyber coverage, including affirmative coverage for bodily injury arising out of cyber events as well as substantive limits for extortion, ransomware attacks and system outages.
CONSOLIDATION, GLOBAL THINKING & PARTNERSHIP
One trend that is bound to gather pace in 2021 is consolidation in the healthcare and private medical sector. handl group rounded off 2020 with the acquisition of Reach rehab service, adding it to a portfolio that includes Corpore, Autoresolutions, EQL and more. In fact handl told IE mag in January that resolution services were increasingly settling claims, rather than the usual court process as Covid caused a backlog in the UK courts system.
This one-stop-shop approach is a useful one for insurers and brokers, since it allows the policyholder to access treatments rapidly, which is vital in complex PI claims, as well as Critical Illness, Income Protection or other PMI claims too.
AXA merged three of its healthcare divisions into one back in October 2020, MAPFRE announced it was launching an insurtech incubator scheme back in July and Allianz got ahead of the curve in 2018 by establishing a health insurance Innovation Centre. By the way Allianz reported that demand for its healthcare products increased by 235% in Germany laste year, 100% in Singapore and 65% in the UAE.
In September 2020 Bright Health announced a Series E funding round of $500m and you can bet that it will be looking beyond the USA for opportunities once it consolidates its core base in North America. Many other VC companies are also looking at India where start-up companies like Claims Buddy have recently attracted more seed capital.
COMMERCIAL POLICY T&Cs WILL BE DRIVEN BY REGULATION
Right now, it’s difficult to say for certain that companies will insist on Covid vaccination proof to allow entry to premises, certainly in the longer term. Although media players like Pimlico Plumbers boss Charlie Mullins have made statements suggesting that future employment contracts may depend on proof of vaccine, in reality, the threat of litigation from those with allergies, or pregnant ladies, will make enforcing that idea a distant dream.
But what will happen is that local Councils and central government will be forced to offer guidance as regards the maximum number of people inside shops, offices and places of work. In the end, the mainstream media will keep hectoring politicians until they cave in and issue that advice – even if it isn’t legally binding. That means insurers, underwriters and brokers will have to update their Commercial policies, and cover such as employee benefits, or travel insurance products. The short answer to most questions that employers will fire at insurers later in 2021 is that Covid risk is fluid, always changing. That means employers will be best advised to print off and complete a checklist similar to the one Zurich created last year for the brief return to work which happened in the summer.
ECO-SYSTEMS ARE EVERYTHING
Just as building an eco-system has transformed the UK car insurance market, letting insurers and MGAs pull together stacks of data, overlay it and make sense of it, the same approach can help healthcare insurers build the future.
In France Sanofi, Capgemini, Orange and Generali are all coming together to launch their own healthcare/insurance platform later in 2021.
“Through this alliance, our motivation as an insurer and assistance provider is to participate in an innovative and powerful ecosystem that will help model the healthcare solutions of the future and to work on new technologies and innovative services for patients. The insurance business works on the basis of statistics drawn from a large volume of anonymised data reaching back over several decades. This can be made available to start-ups to fuel their search for solutions,” explained Jean-Laurent Granier, CEO of Generali France.
It’s a big project, announced by President Macron no less, so expect a cohort of French insurtechs to find a warm welcome within that ecosystem.
In the UK Tech Nation, the government backed scheme for digital start-ups announced its latest Upscale 6.0 cohort. Companies such as AccuRx, LabGenius, LocateALocum and others are all involved in the healthcare sector. Find out more here.
Brace yourself, because 2021 is going to be a year of rapid acceleration in healthcare insurance and all the latest technology that makes quotes, admin, claims, treatment and third party partnerships possible.