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As high-net-worth individuals look to secure their long-term health and holistic wellbeing, their spending power and consumption patterns are effecting profound changes on the design and delivery of private health insurance
How do you prioritise the health and the wellbeing of yourself and your loved ones? Even before the onset of the global pandemic, new patterns of consumer behaviour when it came to health had begun to emerge, the implications of which are just starting to be felt.
The first trend is the increasing number of individuals opting to pay for treatment in a bid to broaden their healthcare options and accelerate access to treatment in the face of unprecedented waiting times.
According to the latest available data1, the total number of people waiting for consultant-led elective treatment increased to over 5.3m in May 2021, the highest level since records began, while the British Medical Association estimates that millions of elective procedures and outpatient attendances were missed between April 2020 and May 2021.2
“Consumers are increasingly savvy. They are looking at information about how to pay for healthcare,” explains Liz Heath, the author of the latest edition of healthcare consultant LaingBuisson’s Private Healthcare: Self-Pay UK Market Report.3"
Sheldon Kenton, Managing Director of Bupa Global, agrees, adding "What’s more, our customers want speed of access to healthcare, particularly after a global pandemic when health is very much front of mind, whilst still ensuring they are getting value for money.”
The second trend quietly altering the way that individuals and insurance providers view the private health insurance market is the use of international policies as a means of accessing domestic services and care.
This pattern of consumer behaviour was first observed in 2018, when the team at Bupa Global, the premium arm of the UK-based international healthcare provider, drew insight from new patterns of behaviour among some of its high-net-worth clients in the UK.
Rather than purchasing domestic private health insurance, this group makes intelligent use of international products to access domestic healthcare. In 2019, 74 per cent of Bupa’s consumers of international insurance in the UK were British citizens and 85 per cent of their claims were made in the UK.
For Kenton, the appeal of international private healthcare insurance lies in the growing demand for the best and most efficient domestic healthcare provision at the upper end of the market.
“International insurance has tended to be much broader in scope than domestic products, especially in the UK,” says Kenton, whose strategy has been directly influenced by this trend and helped to evolve Bupa’s latest international healthcare insurance offering, Private Client by Bupa.
“With Private Client by Bupa, you don’t need a referral, and you have a truly private end-to-end patient journey,” he explains. “This means that you may be seen more quickly, access treatments or services that you might not be able to obtain with a UK-based plan, and you can go straight to a private specialist.”
Kenton likens Private Client by Bupa’s Ultimate level of cover and its proactive approach to the kind of service offered by private banking, personal concierge services or art advisory.
“As the world becomes increasingly globalised and, generally speaking, homogenous, we are seeing a trend towards personalisation. Our insight from the market and feedback from our customers demonstrates that they are looking for a much more personalised, hands-on approach from their health insurer — a partner in health, rather than someone who pays the bill when things go wrong.”
A third trend, echoed worldwide in addition to the health insurance market, is a focus on wellness as opposed to illness. A proactive rather than a reactive approach to private insurance that embraces a very different service concept, Private Client by Bupa describes its provision as proactive “lifecare”, rather than healthcare, which is designed to exceed customer expectations by focusing on prevention rather than cure, and on health rather than illness.
At the heart of the service’s Ultimate offering is a ‘Lifecare Concierge’ who is charged not with minimising claims, but with maximising the benefits that clients can gain from their health insurance coverage.
Each Private Client by Bupa Lifecare Concierge Manager is responsible for a very small portfolio of clients and is charged with understanding and anticipate the health needs of the individuals and families they service following a careful assessment of their existing health and medical requirements and potential needs. In the course of a day, a concierge might deal with everything from arranging regular dental appointments and annual health checkups to appointments with specialists or even co-ordinating emergency repatriations in times of crisis.
Proactive rather than reactive in its approach, Private Client by Bupa places great emphasis on wellbeing, which means that its Ultimate clients also benefit from a wide range of mental health provision and natural therapies, such as naturopathy, cryotherapy, therapies for sleep disorders and vitamin treatments.
“Our Lifecare Concierge Manager will call you on a monthly basis to see how you are, they’ll book and then remind you about scheduled health appointments,” says Kenton. “It’s not a matter of waiting for something to happen, but of guiding you in your health.”
3 Laing Buisson 2021 Market report
Private Client by Bupa is a premium service providing expertly curated health and wellbeing plans insured by Bupa Global.