As managing the impact of COVID-19 continues globally, David Healy, CEO EMEA at Aetna International has taken a deep dive into recent developments across the sector, to identify trends that private medical insurers can expect to see in 2022 and beyond.
Our ongoing study, ‘Polarised Perceptions of Corporate Health and Wellness', reveals that the pandemic has amplified individuals' health priorities and concerns. It also shows that businesses are increasingly expected to provide support for a wide range of employee health and well-being needs.
As a result, we've seen a move towards more holistic care and prevention in the insurance market, with an emphasis on good physical, mental and emotional health, as well as a greater reliance on virtual healthcare. Given this shift in priorities, it is likely 2022 will see insurers adapt their policies and offerings accordingly to better suit the needs of members.
The reliance on virtual healthcare will continue
Many trends from the past 18 months will continue into 2022. One of the biggest for private medical insurers will be the continued focus on providing their members with accessible telehealth services.
We'll see an acceleration in the roll-out of digital services, driven by high demand from members, which will be due to convenience and safety. Better access to telehealth services could help to empower more people to self-manage some health conditions. Coupled with preventative measures that reduce the need for in-person medical care, this could contribute to reducing the number of claims and therefore costs.
The well-care model
The health insurance market has evolved from helping people to recover to supporting prevention. The "well-care model" as we refer to it creates a pathway that empowers individuals to manage their own physical, mental and emotional well-being. Products and services that help to make self-management a daily routine will continue to gain in popularity and will support members to live happier, healthier lives.
Many providers will want to invest in product enhancements to support this. At Aetna International we firmly believe this needs to include a to focus on whole person health - an approach that prioritizes mental and physical health equally.
Improved mental health awareness is a marker for all regions
Mental health is a greater part of the health insurance agenda than it ever was before. We have seen a major push for mental health and well-being provision, which wasn't something actively discussed in previous years.
Corporate insurers across the board have seen that the COVID pandemic has triggered mental health concerns. With this, insurance providers are organically becoming health partners offering holistic solutions to drive positive health outcomes.
The fallout from care avoidance during the pandemic
Many people avoided seeking healthcare during the pandemic, when it was most needed. Those with mild COVID symptoms sometimes hesitated in seeking treatment, giving the virus a chance to make a more significant impact.
The bigger picture shows chronic conditions like hypertension and diabetes not always being routinely managed. The cycle is that manageable conditions could then lead to comorbidities. This could cause strain on healthcare services in hospitals if there isn't the capacity to treat non-COVID related cases.
Accessible, consumer centric health care via AI
Remote patient monitoring and AI together will create a huge step change in accessible healthcare. Trust in telemedicine has created a platform for further growth and adoption. Accessible, consumer centric healthcare is appropriate for modern lives and will evolve at pace. AI will continue to revolutionise remote diagnosis for more conditions - for example, we have already seen accurate remote diagnosis of eye, skin conditions and heart arrythmias. The combination of AI and remote diagnosis and telemedicine will be game changing for healthcare in the longer-term.
Cautious recovery in some regions
While most regions will see standard trends regarding mental health and digital access, in some regions, we may see members taking on more insurance cover with well-known insurers. Some providers are developing plans to cover pandemics, as well as working from home.
Additionally, many policies are incentivising vaccinations, something that is likely to take on greater significance with new COVID-19 variants and appeals for the public to participate in additional vaccination in the form of boosters.