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September 23, 2020updated 18 Jan 2022 5:01am

How insurance providers can drive change in health and fitness

By Patrick Brusnahan

Since March 2020, the UK government has implemented measures to alleviate the pressure on the NHS and a new health strategy, alongside ongoing social distancing guidelines, is part of their plan to address a potential second wave. But handling the issue goes far beyond just following government advice. For insurance companies, coasting through without addressing or harbouring the real causes for concern is no longer sustainable; health and fitness must become a priority. Martin Blinder writes

The problem, in reality, is that the pandemic has shone a spotlight on the insurance sector, exposing its pitfalls and weak areas; criticisms in mainstream media, for instance, have been rife with accusations of insurance companies using the small print to avoid paying out for customers impacted by the pandemic.

The implication of this is that insurers have to be better prepared for change, even if it means updating old processes and re-evaluating significant portions of their current business models. The onus is on these companies to work alongside organisations and the government to get the nation healthy. This starts with giving people access to the foundations that will help them improve their health and wellbeing.

Adjusting to the new normal

Since the UK went into lockdown in March, “remote” ways of maintaining physical fitness have skyrocketed. One company, for example, has experienced a 900% increase in sign-ups since the onset of lockdown. There has also been a huge spike in the focus on self-care, as shown in our latest User Behaviour Report, which revealed that 44% of users were focusing on weight loss, and 90% were listening to meditations to keep stress levels low.

With more people focusing on improving their health than ever before, alongside government initiatives like the new Better Health programme, insurance providers should be better supporting their members in order to drive change. Insurers have a duty of care to provide well-rounded and tailored packages to their members, should they need the support.

If these processes aren’t in place, including offering self-care programmes and activities, it could wield a more detrimental impact on the business than they realise (such as increasing the cost of care provision); much less, distance them from their members and render them less relevant.

For these companies, it’s not necessarily all just about learning to stay afloat anymore – of course, implementing strategies to be able to sustain the business and make it to the other side is of grave importance – but dwelling on the challenges at hand could have the adverse effect. Insurers must instead focus on harnessing the opportunities to be found in this ‘new normal’ world, as many are now past the point of survival and are learning new ways to prosper and take advantage of the situation.

For insurers, there has never been a better or more necessary time to adopt new protocols for the betterment of collaboration, productivity, and wellness.

The responsibility of insurance with health and fitness

Despite lockdown measures across the country slowly being relaxed, many businesses are still planning to elicit a work from home culture at least for the next few months. If this is the case, companies will need to be well positioned in terms of their employees’ liability, financial, and health insurance.

Insurance providers must adopt a deep understanding of their members’ needs, health, fitness and lifestyles, and be in a position to tailor their services and culture accordingly. Each individual holds different fitness levels and goals, so implementing a scheme or package that takes into account the nuances of changing human behaviour is a hugely complex task. For insurers, the combination of lack of knowledge and the abundance of options to choose from can be the biggest barrier in finding a solution.

Encouraging people to make everyday changes that will have a lasting impact on their physical and mental health can be difficult, but helping them find the motivation to invest in their health and fitness should be a priority. The slew in HealthTech pivots and initiatives – from ways to track COVID-19 symptoms and making online prescriptions easier to obtain, to software services and AI developments – means that integrating digital health protocols has become more of an integral part of business structures, and will only continue to rise come 2021. So, not only do insurers need to look after their members, but they also need to keep up with the curve.

Tech as the health and fitness insurance enabler

Adjusting to change isn’t easy. In fact, it’s against our human nature. However, insurance companies that were well versed in embracing digital transformation were able to maintain greater agility and pragmatism than their more traditional counterparts.

The fact is, years of digital transformation effectively became condensed into a few months, so the businesses which had already incorporated technology were in a better position to positively respond to the shift towards working from home. A few months on, it’s clear that insurers, known generally for being cautiously slow with regard to change, must find their footing in this ‘new normal’ and adapt faster to the shifts in needs of their members.

This is because, undoubtedly, health and wellbeing are more important than ever before. Insurance providers must tackle this head-on and consider opportunities with emerging new health and fitness technologies, such as health-tracking apps and devices, as well as wearables as a potential solution to dips in productivity and motivation. These new technologies, including health and wellbeing platforms available on smartphones, have been designed to empower individuals to take greater control of themselves; and they are becoming more widely recognised as a conduit for better engagement and understanding of members’ wants and needs.

There is an abundance of healthtech available today, but those that harness advancements in behaviour science to glean specific data, can really empower insurers to tailor their products to the evolving needs of their customers.  Those needs being more personalised products that take into account general wellbeing and preventive health services that empower people to take control of their health, ultimately, reducing the cost of care provision.

Giving people the tools to be better engaged in their overall health and wellbeing means greater productivity and benefits from a business standpoint. But it also promotes positive behaviour change, as there’s more scope to improve personal health and wellbeing in the long-term.

Martin Blinder is CEO and founder of health engagement company, Tictrac

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