The health insurance industry is going through a wave of transformation with introduction of innovative and customised products and services in this space, that specifically cater to the requirement of the customers. This can be attributed to increase in awareness amongst the consumers, changing disease pattern more towards lifestyle diseases, technological advancements in the medical & insurance industries and influx of new mono line insurance companies focusing only on health insurance segment in the Indian market. Going forward, the following are going to be the key focus areas for the industry:
Awareness: The industry will see a range of health awareness campaigns, however I believe these campaigns should emphasise on positioning this tool correctly to create a need for health insurance in the market. We need to educate the consumers that health insurance is not a mere tax-saving tool but a security blanket that can help you protect your lifetime savings, that can be wiped out with a single medical emergency given the cost of good medicare in the country. Product innovation: Today we have treatments like aryuveda, homeopathy, pregnancy and outpatient expenses etc being covered under the retail mediclaim policy. This was not available till a few years ago. In the coming year, we will see more inclusive and simpler products being churned out based on customers' need rather than the insurer's requirements.
Affordability & accessibility: Consumers in tier 2 and 3 cities as well as rural India will have increased access to healthcare and insurance. Business models must be created with simple products for people with low disposable income coupled with use of technology to reach out to the remotest corner of the country. At Bajaj Allianz, we plan to come up with 4,000 virtual offices catering to every corner of this country in the next three to four years providing insurance solutions to the consumers at their doorstep through tabs.
Value-added services beyond insurance: Insurers will play a key role in helping consumers deal with lifestyle diseases and reduce their out-of-pocket spending towards health care. Insurers are providing customers with value-adds like discounts on OPD/IPD treatments, health checkups etc. In the coming year, we will see insurers playing a pivotal role in providing wellness services to consumers preferably on e-platform.
Preventive care: There will be a visible increase in preventive care programs in the country and the industry will have to drive this along with other stakeholders, preferably using digital mediums. This will be beneficial both for the policyholders as well as the industry.
Claims management: New and digitised processes are likely to further streamline claim processing speeds especially for cashless claims, from hours to minutes. It will also have up-to-date customer information, thereby responding quickly to customer queries. Mobile-based technology will empower us to reach out to the maximum number of consumers. In the days to come, the role of an insurer will no longer be limited to providing insurance plans but will include providing services beyond insurance in the health care ecosystem.
Let me give you an example on how insurers can leverage on technology to change the user interface, thereby aiding the health care industry in India. The days involving multiple visits to doctors, diagnostic centres and second opinions for an ailment will give way to virtual doctors. The future is going to be medical consultation and monitoring through mobile apps at your convenience. The mobile app will enable the customer to seek medical advice from the select list of doctors, and get answers to their health related queries or take second opinions. It will include features that monitors your blood pressure, sugar levels and other key health check points. It will allow the users to upload diagnostic reports and photographs so that the doctor can have the history and the current condition to give the right consultation without involving a visit. The customers will also get medicines delivered at their doorstep and insurers will play a major role in facilitating the same.
Insurance For instance, Bajaj Allianz's 'Doctor on Call' mobile app available on Google Play offers some of these features.
2015 we will also witness the first step towards the universal healthcare model being rolled out, one of the key agendas of the new government at the centre. With the governments push for universal coverage consumers will see a focused approach with public and private sector participation towards health care and insurance. The goal will be to ensure equitable access to affordable, and appropriate health services to all Indian citizens.
Health insurance segment will be driven by technology, simpler and customised products and services beyond insurance. This, coupled with governments and the industry's thrust towards awareness, increased penetration and preventive care, will help the segment grow at a robust pace. Insurers need to leverage this and offer the right product, quick service at the right price and deliver what is unexpected.
Tapan Singhel is the MD & CEO at Bajaj Allianz General Insurance