Why PMI needs to deliver everyday care
Given the growing health challenges the country is facing, PMI needs to play an expanding role in helping to deliver better access to a broader range of healthcare, writes Dr Keith Klintworth, Managing Director for VitalityHealth.
According to recent research published by the Health Foundation1, the number of people in England living with major illness is projected to rise to more than 9 million by 2040, around 1 in 5 of the adult population.
This pattern of deteriorating health is driven in part by an aging population and a growing burden of disease caused by lifestyle risks.
What’s also alarming is that despite favourable trends in certain risk factors, notably smoking, high blood pressure and high cholesterol, these gains have been offset by other lifestyle risks, especially obesity. In the UK, obesity rates have almost doubled between 1993 and 20192.
Growing pressure on primary care
Whilst deteriorating population health will have implications across the whole spectrum of healthcare, primary care provision is set to be particularly impacted.
Conditions typically diagnosed and managed within a primary care setting are projected to increase at the fastest rates. These include conditions like chronic pain, type 2 diabetes, anxiety or depression and chronic kidney disease3.
GP services are already under strain from rising demand and increasing numbers of people living with complex care needs and often having multiple, chronic health conditions4.
The experience for many when trying to access public primary care services are long waiting times and a lack of availability5.
"More than ever products deliver actual value, rather than just being something they file away and forget about, hoping to never claim on."
- Dr Keith Klintworth
Managing Director, VitalityHealth
Expanding the scope of PMI
Given the growing health challenges the country is facing, Private Medical Insurance needs to play an expanding role in helping to deliver better access to a broader range of healthcare, whilst also playing a crucial role in the prevention of illness.
Alongside the traditional role of providing access to private hospital treatment, the provision of more everyday healthcare benefits, including primary care, will be of increasing value to consumers, at a time when access to these essential services is severely stretched.
Therefore ensuring products deliver actual value, rather than just being something they file away and forget about, hoping never to claim on.
It’s also about recognising the important role that everyday healthcare services, like primary care, play in the prevention and management of common health conditions.
End-to-end healthcare solutions
To cater for growing demand, the range of primary care benefits that PMI plans can offer has expanded considerably in recent years, with plans increasingly delivering a complete end-to-end healthcare solution for consumers.
Vitality was the first insurer to bring primary care to PMI, with the launch of Vitality GP in 2015. Since then, uptake has snowballed. In 2022, more than half of Vitality health claims were for primary care services alone6. Especially as these services have expanded to included mental health support and physiotherapy too.
Such treatments – including cognitive behavioural therapy - give clients access to vital support to prevent and manage health conditions. By cutting out the need for GP referrals, we can also speed up access, while the recent removal of underwriting for mental health means all clients with a VitalityHealth plan can now utilise Talking Therapies regardless of medical history.
On top of these services, PMI primary care services can cover everything from diagnostic testing such as blood tests and x-rays, as well as private prescriptions. With no excess to pay and up to £100 per plan year to spend on these minor diagnostics and private prescriptions, clients can also save money on these everyday private healthcare costs.
Prevention is better than cure
Expanding access to a broader range of everyday healthcare benefits is also about delivering better preventative support, particularly given the growing burden of disease caused by lifestyle risks7.
Helping clients to improve their health and prevent illness from arising has benefits socially as well as individually. PMI plans that can support clients in this area can play a key role in reducing the burden on public healthcare systems and easing some of the pressure on the NHS.
Alongside primary care, health and wellbeing benefits like the Vitality Programme, rooted in behavioural economics, can be the key to helping clients to manage and improve lifestyle health factors – such as physical activity and eating better – through incentivisation and rewarding positive lifestyle choices. We see this approach clearly paying off, with analysis of VitalityHealth claims between 2017 and 2021 showing up to 46% lower claims costs for highly engaged members across major claims categories8.
Digitalisation as a healthcare enabler
Digitalisation is revolutionising the provision of healthcare services, from diagnostics and treatment to an explosion in healthcare apps in recent years.
PMI plans are well placed to harness technology to provide better digital access to services through a more joined up approach.
A holistic approach to healthcare and utilising digital solutions can improve access and drive engagement with services, whilst also working to deliver better health outcomes for consumers.
Our Care Hub, for example, provides a one-stop shop were clients access everything they need from their healthcare plan, along with instant digital authorisation to speed up onward diagnostics and treatment.
Where appropriate, PMI products are also able to deliver everything from digital diagnostics and at-home screening to home-based treatments such as chemotherapy, in a way that is much more tailored to individual patients.
As the burden of ill-health is set to steadily rise in the UK and more people are living with illness, often caused by preventable lifestyle risks, PMI needs to play an increasingly important role. Not only to provide timely access to treatment at an earlier point, but in helping to prevent illness from arising in the first place – at a time when this is most needed.
Where to next?
Why there is no time like the present to discuss PMI with your clients
With demand still high for private healthcare, there's never been a better opportunity to discuss PMI with clients. Especially given the expanding range of everyday healthcare benefits.
Why prevention is better than a claim
We sat down with Dr Katie Tryon, Director Health Strategy for Vitality, to hear why prevention is playing such a prominent role within PMI.
Built around you, Vitality Academy offers multi-media digital learning, from foundational knowledge, to in-depth expertise on industry trends. You're in control of your learning.
Our Insights Hub brings you our range of adviser content - from video series to articles blogs.
1 Health in 2040: projected patterns of illness in England | Health Foundation
2 Health in 2040: projected patterns of illness in England | Health Foundation
3 Health in 2040: projected patterns of illness in England | Health Foundation
4 There are not enough GPs to tackle the burden of non-communicable diseases (politicshome.com)
5 Millions wait for more than a fortnight to see a GP in England - BBC News
6 VitalityHealth, Claims Insights Report 2022
7 Global Burden of Disease database; Williamson, E., Walkerm A. J., Bhaskaran, K. J., Bacon, S., Bates, C., Morton C. E., & Cockburn, J. (2020)
8 VitalityHealth, Claims Insights Report 2022