Cigna Health 2021 Industry Outlook

Global Health

Shift towards telehealth services  

One of the most significant changes in healthcare brought about by the pandemic is the shift from physical consultations to telehealth services. What started as a short-term solution to relieve healthcare resources through the reduction of patient screening and allow for ongoing care during lockdown and social distancing measures, has now become a long term necessity. Across our markets, we have seen a strong increase in demand for telehealth services. Based on the latest edition of our Cigna COVID-19 Global Impact study[1], we also found that more than half (58%) of respondents were interested in virtual health services. While there is no denying that human touch remains essential for emergency care and it cannot be entirely replaced by automation, a shift towards the increased use of digital solutions within the industry, as seen in the uptake in telehealth, is inevitable. As people continue to enjoy the flexibility that virtual healthcare offers, the industry should build on this momentum and look at ways to scale digital services to meet this growing demand.

Scaling digital technology and moving towards preventive healthcare  COVID-19 has clearly demonstrated the need to be prepared, particularly in relation to health. People are now taking a more engaged approach to their health cover and are motivated to seek access to the best care, to ensure that they are prepared in the event of unforeseen circumstances. Even before the pandemic, we were already seeing a growing health and wellness trend in Australia with people wanting to lead healthier lifestyles whether it is through their diet and nutrition or lifestyle choices. This, together with the shift in customer expectations, would require the industry to adapt, as we play an increasingly prominent role in the health of customers as life expectancy increases and health trends change. Besides telehealth, other forms of digital technology also play an important part in this transition. Given the increasing health consciousness in Australia, data and connected devices, particularly wearables, will make it easier for the insurance industry to play an active role in shaping customer health. With such information, health insurers can provide well-timed and personalised information around diet, disease management and doctor appointments. This presents an exciting opportunity for the industry to improve and simplify the patient experience by harnessing digital tools, as well as data analytics, to deliver a highly personalised care pathway and offer a 360 approach to care management.

Emerging stronger from the crisis through targeted health management It is undeniable that the global pandemic has created a focus on healthcare that will have a far-reaching impact on the future of insurance. By 2050, the number of people aged 65 to 84 years in Australia is expected to more than double[2]. The demand for chronic care health services will only continue to grow and health systems and insurers across the region will need to adapt strategically. With COVID-19 revolutionising the way we view healthcare, there are greater opportunities for the industry to revamp areas such as value-based patient-centric care, customer engagement, and research and development, and move towards a “prescribe and prevent” model. We believe that the industry’s best days are ahead, in part thanks to the transformative opportunities resulting from the global pandemic. Leveraged effectively, we believe Australia’s insurance sector will emerge even stronger in the year ahead.
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