health as it happens

International private medical insurance trends in 2022 - ITIJ

Global private medical insurance trends are constantly evolving. However, the unprecedented spotlight on public health over the last two years has highlighted the need for efficient health cover like never before. The impact of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, reduced access to healthcare and a new dependence on technology will continue to transform the industry.

Accessibility to health services

As we head into 2022, arguably the biggest trend will be health insurers’ continued focus on providing their members with accessible telehealth services. The reason for this is that, leaving aside the obvious impact that Covid-19 has had on the accelerated adoption of telehealth, there are a few drivers that make telehealth a key cog in the primary care model. The first is convenience – telehealth services afford ready access to experienced doctors, and some services even take it a step forward by combining primary care with concierge-style diagnostics and prescription services, where patient samples are taken and medicines are delivered to the office or home door.

Secondly, telemedicine doctors provide the full range of primary care. They take patient histories and either prescribe treatment plans or arrange specialist referrals, after considering the physical and mental effects of a range of afflictions.  This approach is vital, particularly in a post-Covid world where we have seen an increase in the number of patients with comorbidities. 

Furthermore, telehealth has the potential to drive down premium costs. While economic recovery is well underway in many regions, businesses are still watching costs. Data from vHealth, Aetna International’s telehealth service, shows that the more employees use telehealth services, the bigger the reduction in claims. Around 75 per cent of vHealth users completely resolve their condition without the need for onward care, and over 90 per cent admit they would have gone to a hospital if a remote consultation hadn’t been available

Chronic condition management

Preventative measures that will reduce the need for in-person medical care will reduce the number of claims and therefore costs

Another key emerging trend is the treatment of extant comorbidities. Through 2020 and beyond, the pandemic made it harder for patients with chronic conditions such as diabetes to keep up with their medication and regular check ups. This had the potential to cause an escalation of symptoms, leading to further medical issues. Telehealth played a vital role in delivering uninterrupted care to comorbidity patients, including diagnosis, treatment, home blood-monitoring, delivery of prescriptions and, most importantly, consultation when needed.

Long Covid and related health issues is also something health insurers will need to keep an eye on in the coming months. The full impact and extent of long Covid currently remains unknown, and extremely hard to predict. Long Covid potentially presents a significant challenge for healthcare systems that could be very difficult to mitigate.

Corporate health support

In terms of corporate health benefits, the ongoing pandemic will continue to amplify the importance of good physical, mental and emotional health for employees. This means employees will have greater expectations for health insurance benefits from their employers. This is what we discovered in our research. Our ‘Polarised Perceptions of Corporate Health and Wellness’ study shows that 70 per cent of global employees feel that their mental health is most important and that they have been negatively affected during the pandemic. They expect employers to provide comprehensive mental health and well-being services as standard. Research also shows that these services are more important to employees now than previously. A real desire for digital services was also communicated. Results show that employers need to carefully choose the best comprehensive plans for their valued workforce. This should include plans that cover everything from health support, advice and guidance through to telemedicine services and the latest digital tools. 

Health insurers need to offer comprehensive service solutions

Overall, many of the trends we’ve seen since the onset of the pandemic will continue into 2022. Health insurers will continue to offer all-round healthcare. We’ll see an acceleration in the roll-out of digital services, such as telehealth, driven by members’ demand for services, which will be due to convenience and safety. Preventative measures that will reduce the need for in-person medical care will reduce the number of claims and therefore costs. That being said, the continuing degree of global uncertainty indicates that the international medical insurance industry will need to continue to work in an agile way for the foreseeable future.