What does your role as Head of Global Networks at AXA involve?
I’m responsible for leading the network team in AXA Global Healthcare and our key responsibility is building a provider network that allows our members to access quality treatment easily and seamlessly, wherever they are in the world. Our members are always at the centre of what we do, and it’s critical that we know who they are, where they are and what their expectations are when they need to use their International Private Medical Insurance (IPMI) policy. I drive the network strategy and support the team in building, maintaining and enhancing a network that combines strong direct provider arrangements with best-of-breed third-party arrangements.
What does a typical work day look like for you?
I know it’s a cliché, but there isn’t a typical day – that’s one of the great things about the role. Being responsible for the network globally, each country and each region has its own challenges and quirks. Each day is a mix of developing strategic solutions, problem-solving, and building relationships through interactions with a whole range of stakeholders within the AXA Group, as well as external clients and partners.
What trends are you seeing in the industry at the moment?
We’ve certainly seen a rise in demand for short-term assignments as remote working remains popular post-pandemic, often moving from country to country. The number of professional or digital nomads continues to grow. From a network perspective our global reach, with contracted providers in over 160 countries, allows us to ensure that we can support this more transient member profile with direct settlement arrangements wherever they may be.
Unfortunately, an obvious trend is the upward pressure on claims costs. Global inflation is certainly a driver, but we are also seeing a number of providers trying to recover lost income from during the Covid-19 years. Therefore, it’s imperative that we become more creative and innovative in developing in-country solutions, and we have been working on risk/reward models with key regional providers where we link service enhancements to negotiated tariffs. This works particularly well in regions where the providers have a greater focus on cashflow. Other cost saving mechanisms, e.g. adding an excess, are becoming more popular as clients look to reduce their overall exposure to the increasing costs.
Exploiting the opportunities for artificial intelligence (AI) to enhance processes and service delivery is certainly a trend that’s starting to emerge quite strongly in the industry. AXA Global Healthcare has recently launched our virtual assistant, Remi, which uses machine learning to improve her answers and make them more accurate over time, so she can guide users to the best next steps e.g. accessing virtual care services, finding a provider, talking to someone, or getting a quote.
What do you think the future looks like for insurers?
Without doubt the future for IPMI providers will look and feel very different than it is today with greater digitisation, virtual servicing and AI-led enhancements.
Insurers will need to innovate their service offer to meet the changing demands of their globally mobile members, and we are already seeing our members increasingly wanting all their interactions with us to be flexible, automated, tailored and above all admin-light.
The real challenge for the industry will be how to embrace the technology opportunities and develop flexible solutions to meet the changing member expectations, but still manage costs to deliver an affordable product. An example of this are virtual services which meet an evolving customer need but also deliver the service at a lower cost. Insurers will increasingly need to put themselves at the centre of an eco-system that integrates a number of specialist services to give the member a seamless and comprehensive experience.
The insurers that will prosper are those that can anticipate the change in market and customer expectations, and act quickly to develop innovative solutions.
What has been your biggest challenge and most rewarding moment since starting at AXA?
The reward is the easy one to answer, though not a single moment. At the heart of what we stand for is to help our members get better when they have a medical need. I have delivered numerous changes which made the members’ journey to better health easier to navigate – hearing and seeing evidence of this is incredibly rewarding.
Over the past nine years I have led the evolution of the provider network and we have significantly reshaped the model by onboarding new market-leading third parties and building a series of strong relationships with key providers. I have built a team of hard-working procurement and relationship management experts and collectively we have been rewarded with tangible evidence that demonstrate to us that the network meets the needs of our members, but also delivers value for the insurer.
The real challenge has been maintaining the upward trajectory within the backdrop of global inflation, changing member expectations, providers becoming more demanding and the increasingly regulated world that we operate in. All these challenges keep me on my toes and focused on finding new and innovative solutions.
AXA published its third edition of its Mind Health Report in February. What were the main takeaways of the report?
Firstly, women found it harder to reach the peak of good mind health – two reasons highlighted were that women are more likely to receive unwanted comments on their gender or have their abilities questioned.
Secondly, younger people are more likely to be struggling. One of the reasons linked to this was technology and an ‘always on’ culture.
We see employers are becoming more aware of the importance of promoting wellbeing – specifically mental health in the workplace. At AXA Global Healthcare we have our own supporting insight around the stigma of mental health where we found that of the respondents who had experienced a mental health issue:
- Less than 43 per cent told their employer
- 68 per cent were comfortable confiding in their family
- 62 per cent were comfortable confiding in
- their friends
- 80 per cent sought help from a medical professional.
Our members can book virtual appointments with a psychologist through our Mind Health service which is now fully integrated with our other virtual care services to ensure the members’ journey to access the appropriate medical expert is quick and seamless.
How has AXA adapted since the pandemic, and has the company made any permanent changes to policies since then?
When the pandemic hit, there was an immediate impact on the way we worked to make sure we were still able to be there for our members when they needed us. We haven’t gone back exactly to the way things were before the pandemic as we’ve created a new way of working that empowers our teams to adopt a flexible approach with remote and hybrid working becoming commonplace. Importantly, throughout the pandemic, and subsequently, we have always been able to deliver a great level of service to our members, rated 4.7 out of 5 by our members. We are not standing still – we need to continually evolve and look at ways to optimise the new model, and in fact we have just launched our first fully virtual team of service agents.
What do you enjoy most about your role, and what are the biggest challenges?
I get great satisfaction from being able to make a positive difference to our members and my colleagues in AXA Global Healthcare. When I wake up each day I never know what new challenges will come my way, but when I close my laptop there’s always a sense of achievement that I have met the challenges and also moved the business forward.