VALUE OF DIGITAL HEALTH SERVICES13Jun

The pandemic has altered the way health care is given.

Insurance providers have reacted to the rising demand for digital and virtual GP services by developing products to fit customer needs.

Such programs have really taken off in terms of providing mental health support to consumers and those who have been affected by long Covid, and advisers recognise how crucial it is for clients to have access to them.

But, once Covid infection rates start to drop back, and restrictions are lifted entirely, will consumers continue using such solutions in the same way, or will they opt for face-to-face treatment as the country seeks to reclaim normalcy?

Increased Demand for Online Services

 

Jennifer Gilchrist, protection specialist at Royal London told Health & Protection said, “We’ve seen an increase in demand for digital health services coming out of the pandemic and people are becoming more used to virtual methods of accessing services.”

Gilchrist also added that many insurance providers devised more online and virtual capabilities quite quickly which has accelerated the digitalisation of an industry that’s been heavily reliant on more traditional processes when compared to other industries.

Ian Ranger, head of claims and medical underwriting from Canada Life also agreed and noted that a provider’s virtual support service was becoming part of customer expectations.

Health propositions lead at Aviva UK Health, Nina Brown, shared that for the first quarter of 2022, providers observed the average number of online appointments rise to 7,200 per month, with March seeing a record 8,500 appointments carried out.

Last October 2021, the average number of online appointments made was around 5,000 a month. These numbers are clear indications of continuing growth. Given this, healthcare providers, as well as insurers, need to respond to the demand and adapt.

Two factors must be kept in mind when innovating products/services:

1. speed
2. convenience

Less intrusive services and encourage patients to reach out more readily

 

The awkward waiting time at the doctor’s office or the energy-draining commute to the clinic can hinder some people to seek care. However, online services take away these factors and allow more people to reach out for mental health checks.

Virtual consults give plenty of breathing room for patients and lessen the anxiety some may feel when going to a therapist. Conducting a session in one’s comfort zone eases away a good chunk of the tension so there is more focus on more pending matters.

As the number of cases grows, digital delivery of services means long-term Covid patients don’t have to travel for treatment, as Dr Julie Denning, managing director of return-to-work rehabilitation firm Working To Wellbeing, points out.

“Those who have complex therapeutic demands, like those receiving cancer treatments or recovering from prolonged Covid,” Denning explained, “digital delivery means they don’t need to make additional travels outside of their home when they may be feeling exhausted, in pain, or concerned.”

The Demand for Digital Services is Unlikely Waning

While companies are making moves to return to work or have a hybrid setup, what healthcare providers and insurance can expect is the steadfast need for fast and convenient online services regardless of loose or non-existent restrictions.

Patients have realised the value of such services and there is very little sign of going back from this point forth.