With the UK facing rising healthcare demand and growing numbers of people living with long-term health conditions, the prevention of illness has never been more important. Given the pressures faced by the NHS, health insurance is evolving to do more than just promote healthy living – a concept we’re calling ‘Prevention 2.0’, writes Dr Keith Klintworth, Managing Director, VitalityHealth.
Our Health Claims Insights Report, published last year, highlighted – alongside a range of other trends – how influencing healthy behaviour change through rewards and incentives is having real impact. Not only when it comes to improving outcomes, but also by reducing healthcare costs and ultimately helping people live longer in better health.
As private medical insurance (PMI) products continue to evolve and given growing public demand, as an insurer, we’re expanding the scope of preventative support available to clients. But what do we really mean by prevention and its role within PMI?
“Prevention 2.0 is about more than just promoting wellbeing. It is incorporating prevention at every stage – before, during and after treatment.”
A truly preventative approach to healthcare must start with positive lifestyle choices – such as increasing physical activity levels and nutrition – but also go much further; through clinical screening and early intervention, as well as support during and after treatment to help avoid reoccurrence, as part of an end-to-end journey.
By putting prevention at the heart of a PMI proposition, we believe the health insurance sector can - and must - play an integral role in helping reduce the overall healthcare burden at a time when the NHS is under severe pressure, and deliver huge benefit to society as a result.
Managing lifestyle risk factors
With 88% of preventable disease in the UK down to lifestyle-related factors, such as lack of exercise, poor nutrition and poor mental health, helping people to lead healthier lives is crucial in driving better healthcare outcomes1.
Most of us know that we might need to do more exercise, eat better, cut down on our alcohol intake or quit smoking. The challenges we often face though are in making those positive lifestyle changes and making them stick.
At Vitality, we’ve been on a journey from the very beginning, building a programme that focuses on lifestyle factors and incorporates health and wellbeing into the core of our proposition. As our claims report highlighted, we’re seeing this approach pay off.
Analysis of VitalityHealth claims between 2017 and 2021 showed up to 46% lower claims costs for highly engaged members across major claims categories. Data from our parent company Discovery also shows those who were more physically active before being diagnosed with breast cancer or prostate cancer have nearly 50% better chance of survival2.
Since day one, we’ve recognised that the key to helping our members lead healthier lives is driving positive change through an incentive-based rewards programme based on the laws of behavioural science. This approach has been central to how we drive up engagement and help members to build long-term positive lifestyle changes.
As PMI products evolve and place a greater emphasis on the prevention of disease, the clinical side of health cover is just as important as managing and improving lifestyle factors.
This requires additional focus on clinical risk factors, as well as more effective disease management and identification. This is less about preventing the onset of disease, but more about driving better healthcare outcomes when someone does fall, through a range of effective measures and interventions.
With healthcare systems tending to invest more heavily in treatment and care, sometimes at the expense of earlier clinical interventions and more effective screening, this is an area where health insurers can really lead the way.
Better health outcomes
Screening services form a key element of our preventative strategy and can help drive positive health, wellbeing and treatment outcomes.
When it comes to lifestyle health factors, annual health MOT checks help give members a clearer picture of their health and any areas that may need improvement.
We can also use the results of these annual checks to drive personalised programmes of lifestyle related support, as we’ve been rolling out with our ‘Next Best Action’ initiative. This is about empowering people with a better understanding of their health, focusing on the areas that need improvement and then providing the tools to drive positive changes.
At a clinical level, screening plays an important role too in disease management and identification. This is an area where private health insurance can provide powerful, evidence-based services, increasingly utilising technology as a facilitator to improve access and drive down costs.
For example, Vitality partnered with Skin Analytics since 2015 to provide members with access to skin cancer screening services through the use of smartphone technology. Recently, Skin Analytics have been developing the first AI-powered skin cancer detection tools, highlighting the potential for advanced technology to play a leading role in the prevention and early detection of disease.
Treatment, care and rehabilitation pathways
Central to what we’re developing at Vitality is a complete end-to-end healthcare proposition, which can support the member through their whole healthcare journey and stand more chance of living in the best possible health.
For those that are diagnosed with an illness such as heart disease or cancer, or living with a chronic condition like diabetes, it’s important that as well as treating the condition, we address their overall health and wellbeing.
An individual being in good health, aside from reducing the likelihood of a claim arising in the first place, will also have a big impact on the success of treatment outcomes for those who do need to undergo treatment.
Improving someone’s baseline health, as part of a broad package of holistic treatment can drive significant wellbeing benefits linked with treatment and rehabilitation.
A good example of this can be found in our partnership with OnkoHealth, where we support cancer patients to be in the best possible health, through fitness and wellbeing support, whilst living with and undergoing treatment for their condition.
Personalisation is key
To deliver the better health outcomes, it’s vital we don’t simply offer a one-size-fits-all approach, but instead offer a broad range of solutions that can adapt and fit to each person’s needs.
Whether it’s annual health checks or Next Best Action, we utilise benefits and rewards that resonate with members on an individual level, to drive personalised interventions to provide more sophisticated levels of preventative support.
Our partnership with Second Nature, for example, has been developed to supports members living with type-2 diabetes. By focusing on the lifestyle factors at the root of the condition, we can offer a tailored approach to help the individual to improve their diabetes, such as through better nutrition and exercise.
Ultimately, it is about recognising the impact that a preventative based approach can have both on the individual and the general health of our nation as a whole. By delivering a complete end-to-end health insurance proposition, that supports the individual through their healthcare journey, it is our aim to ensure our members remain in good health, for longer. And get the right holistic support when they need it – before, during and after treatment.
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2. Vitality Health Claims & Insights Report 2022