Telehealth is taking healthcare services to a new level as it sets to improve the efficacy of providers and enhance the customer experience, says Christian Gregorowicz. CEO of Allianz Partners MEA & Nextcare, Global Head of TPA & MPM.
Three years ago, Nextcare embarked on a digitalisation strategy aimed at enhancing consumer access to healthcare services, which consequently, would distinguish the company as a market leader, says Mr Gregorowicz.
“Nextcare is a pioneer in adopting digital and telehealth services because using them is a game-changer and will transform the healthcare industry.” In 2019, Nextcare launched its teleconsultation service to its members in Dubai through a mobile app. “Through the app, our members can contact doctors at their convenience. By the end of the year, we have also launched the symptoms-checker, an AI-based third-party algorithm tool for members to check symptoms, receive advice or take an action. This is available for our members who download the app. This tool is going to be personalised in the future to enhance the customer experience. It was launched in Dubai due to regulatory reasons, but the plan is to expand coverage in the coming period.”
He added that Nextcare gained the first-mover advantage. “We have invested heavily in digital services and data-driven technologies that will improve the customer experience and enhance the efficiency of our operations. Therefore, we are bringing online solutions, with many self-service tools, and transforming the way we operate within our industry to provide a better customer experience and better control on claims processes.” In addition to enhancing the customer journey, the use of telehealth and advanced technology reduces the time needed to receive medical consultation – both for the patient and physician, he said. “It is going to improve the access to quality care, as well as offer personalised services to clients while, at the same time, reduce medical cost. It is a win-win solution for all parties, including insurers, as it adds access to care to their members,” he said.
INCREASED TAKE-UP OF TELEHEALTH Previously, there were barriers to using this type of teleconsultation, but this is changing as the telehealth concept is becoming increasingly common, said Mr Gregorowicz “The growth in the take-up rate of telehealth services is exponential especially among the new generation.” At the global level, the take-up rate of teleconsultation stands at 5%, depending on how providers are utilising this tool, he said. “Though the use of this service in the region is optional, in some markets, it is being used as a gate-keeper for certain products with the consequence of a higher take-up rate. In the UAE, the take-up rate is at the global average of 5%.” As a regional player, Nextcare has noticed an increased acceptance to teleconsultation services. “There is a good reception for telehealth services in the GCC, but it would take time to change people’s mindsets. There remains some resistance to change; however, with the ease technology is providing, there will be more acceptance,” he said.
“On the other hand, today’s COVID-19 global challenge has rushed us to extend and optimize our teleconsultation service to meet the government and healthcare authorities’ recommendation for social distancing, and address the need of our clients in the safest and most practical manner. There is a need for the regulatory regimes to keep pace with the fast-changing developments in this field, he noted. “Regulations in our region are still developing. There is a telehealth regulation in the UAE, but it does not give the provider the flexibility required to treat people via teleconsultation.” HEALTHCARE COST UNDER PRESSURE Prices are acceptable for basic healthcare insurance products which are offered to large social segments, but potentially providers would be forced to factor inflation into the cost of healthcare services, said Mr Gregorowicz. “Increased competition, the withdrawal of considerable capacity from the region and the hardening in the reinsurance market, are factors which will push insurers to manage their own balance sheets instead of mainly relying on reinsurance backup. All these factors are putting pressure on the market. Accordingly, loss ratios for healthcare insurance in the region would see some variances in 2020 and going forward.” On the increased cost of healthcare services, he said, while the expanding population is a main natural driver, the abuse of the healthcare system is a major contributor too.
“We are constantly monitoring all cases from our side to ensure that the cost does not go beyond the normal inflation in this country.” He added that using technology has contributed in the reduction of the fraud, waste and abuse (FWA) rates in several services. “Overall, we seek to reach a rational level of using the service. For instance, we don’t accept setting targets for physicians to limit the cost.” INNOVATION STRATEGY Improving customer services has become more about creating new digital services to ease their journey, said Mr Gregorowicz. “We have been serving this market for more than 20 years – always working to anticipate the needs of our clients, ensuring that we provide adequate support to our partners who are servicing their clients, and adopting change to ensure compliance with regulations. Currently, technology plays a big role in achieving all these goals.” He added that understanding new trends and providing customers with improved products have contributed to fortifying Nextcare’s position in the market. “This is why we are one of the market leaders today.” Conducted by the “Middle East Insurance Review Magazine.”