First of all, let’s start with a bit of background – could you share a brief overview of your career to date, and how you came to progress to your current role?
I’m a senior global insurance executive with wide-ranging experience in strategic development, digitalisation, and the execution of international programmes. My focus is on establishing long-term partnerships and delivering high-end solutions for clients.
I joined Foyer Global Health (FGH) in October 2021 to lead strategic and development activities, focusing on growing our existing partnerships and forging new ones, while executing an in-depth digital transformation as the servicing backbone for our globally mobile clients.
Prior to this, I was Head of Products & Solutions at Allianz Global Benefits and leader of the employee benefits steering at Global Life and Health, Allianz SE over a 10-year period.
Alongside these roles, in 2017 I led the development and implementation of a centralised global corporate protection solution on behalf of the Allianz Group.
How can technology help insurers build more efficient systems?
In my view, technology is one of the two key elements of the future of health insurance; the other is a competent workforce ‘cooperating’ with the technology. Through the increase of new technologies, we have growing opportunities to really implement a customer-centric offer, while allowing the insurer to become more efficient and to create value-added services.
Increased use of data and predictive analytics can help us create pricing strategies so that any individual client can rely on paying the right level of premium in the short and long term, based on adequate lifecycle data.
Technology can help companies understand their customers’ behaviours and identify their needs, and gives enhanced insights to predict their actions, which allows them to adapt policies accordingly and create new and enhanced pricing strategies.
Through the increase of new technologies, we have growing opportunities to really implement a customer-centric offer
Administrative and repetitive tasks can be automated, allowing competent staff to focus on key and value-added tasks for customers. For example, medical billing is a major administrative burden, but with mobile apps, you can submit claims on the go in only a few taps. Machine learning tools can then be used for claims. A machine learning application can teach itself to analyse claims received and place them into one of three buckets: pay, don’t pay, or refer.
Telemedicine is enhancing customer service levels and reducing costs for patients and insurers. It helps in cutting healthcare costs in two major ways – firstly, it gives patients flexible, easily-accessible clinical care; secondly, doctors can offer primary care and reduce the unnecessary and expensive use of Emergency Room visits.
Wearable sensors are providing access to critical health data more quickly. They provide a whole variety of data and aid the remote monitoring of patients. They can gather all the necessary information from patients and send their healthcare data to a unified system, with doctors receiving real-time alerts if a patient’s condition is a concern.
In addition, more generally, technological progress in the whole medical ecosystem allows customers access to ever-improving medical care, new treatments and drugs.
How can technology enable the use of electronic medical records to ensure patients receive timely and appropriate care?
The more information that is available to a medical practitioner, the better the diagnosis and the more appropriate the treatment. However, the level of information is increasingly large and complex. Therefore, technology must firstly be used to ensure the data is presented in a clear, usable and optimal way. This is about providing accurate, up-to-date and complete information about patients at the point of care.
Secondly, alongside predictive algorithms using proven data from a large number of patients over the years, it can be used to provide the ideal diagnosis for the client.
Technological advances will:
- Enable quick access to patient records for more coordinated, efficient care
- Allow secure sharing of electronic information with patients and other clinicians
- Help providers more effectively diagnose patients, reduce medical errors and provide safer care
- Improve patient and provider interaction and communication, as well as healthcare convenience
- Enable safer, more reliable prescribing
- Reduce costs through accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment.
Keeping with technology for the moment, how do you think it can smooth the payments pathway between medical providers and health insurers?
The rising cost of claims and claims management is a formidable challenge, pushing health insurers towards more innovation. Health plans with an integrated payment and communication platform will help reduce complexities and costs with claims management, and free up resources to provide a modern consumer experience to members.
Technology is now available to digitise part (if not all) of the claims that life cycle payers need, and to limit siloed functions and duplicative infrastructure.
Digital technology and data management systems can be used to control simple claims first. Simple and repetitive tasks will be taken over by algorithms, and then increasingly more complex tasks.
However, digitalisation will always need to allow for and to combine with human input – particularly in complex cases. This is simply because the health of human beings is not mathematical.
What trends are you seeing with regards to where expatriates are choosing to work at the moment? Are you seeing an increase in self-employed digital nomads taking advantage of the visas being offered by different countries?
With the reopening of borders after the pandemic, which hit economies around the globe so hard, we’re seeing many countries put measures in place to revitalise their finances and compensate for a lack of manpower in certain sectors. Some are turning to expatriation to help with this and are putting advantageous measures in place to attract foreign workers. When you combine this with the increasing phenomenon of ‘digital nomads’, we’re seeing many people considering expat options for the first time – and some countries are really making the effort to attract foreign workers, including Canada, Thailand, and countries in Europe.
One of the corner values of FGH is equality
Are you able to offer appropriate medical insurance to women for abortion? How do you plan to manage cases where abortion is outlawed?
One of the corner values of FGH is equality. That includes the equality of women. Moreover, we adhere to the principles of the UN Convention on the elimination of all forms of discrimination against women, which includes the right to bodily autonomy and the right of sexual and reproductive freedom. We are able to offer appropriate medical insurance to women. We reimburse the client based on the chosen conditions of the policy. As we are an international insurance company, the client has the freedom to choose a location where abortion is legal. Clients facing legal issues for a covered treatment in one country are free to travel for the treatment to a place where it is allowed.
Where does FGH view as having the best healthcare systems in the world, and why are these the top choices?
When people consider moving abroad, one of the main considerations is the quality, accessibility and cost of health services. At FGH, we came up with a top five for 2022:
Singapore: the system is renowned for being efficient and ultra-modern. Healthcare has been a government priority for years, and in both the public and private sectors, patients have access to high-quality services, highly trained staff and top-notch facilities.
Japan: the system is modern, efficient and accessible, and public health insurance covers 70 per cent of healthcare expenses for all residents – who have one of the highest life expectancy rates in the world.
Switzerland: the Swiss system performs well in terms of accessibility, quality and supply of medical services, and overall efficiency. Fuelled by substantial expenditure, it relies on a mix of public/private actors, operating in a highly regulated market.
Netherlands: one of the best in Europe in terms of accessibility, case management, equity and healthcare outcomes. A balance of regulation and liberalism, residents benefit from centralised universal coverage regulated by the state and implemented by private insurance companies.
Taiwan: a pioneer in digital health, with services that are efficient, adaptable and accessible. All Taiwanese residents have access to very high-quality services almost free of charge, thanks to National Health Insurance.
When it comes to building a comprehensive network of suppliers around the world – such as hospitals, assistance partners and air ambulance companies – could you tell us about your criteria that help you identify the right partners? Does accreditation of hospitals and air ambulances matter to you?
We believe our clients should have freedom of choice – they can consult the private doctors or hospitals of their choice, without being restricted by a network of specific providers.
We can however provide recommendations where needed, and for countries where we have a large number of insured clients, we work with local networks of high-quality service providers. To ensure the best offering to clients, we work with internationally renowned assistance companies who provide these services for us.
International accreditations and certifications are very important when choosing the providers we work with, and a guarantee of the quality we offer our patients.
What are your hopes for the future of FGH and the IPMI sector in general?
There are 80 million expatriates, five million international students, four million temporary foreign workers, and 18 million high-net-worth individuals (of whom 2.7 million are ultra-high-net-worth). Every single one of these is a potential client, and my aim and expectation is to broaden FGH’s worldwide reputation as a market leader in health insurance – recognised by our clients for our transparency and support in times of need, and by our partners for the quality of our collaboration over longer periods.
More generally, the IPMI market is changing and growing rapidly. Global demand for health insurance is rising, with ever-increasing numbers of expats including students, digital nomads and NGO workers – who all need cover.
IPMI and PMI are no longer separate, and this presents opportunities for health insurers and brokers at a time when technology is evolving through the use of AI and teleconsultation.
More generally, the IPMI market is changing and growing rapidly
An increase in regulation will provide both challenges and opportunities in an industry where compliance is a key factor for success. No longer able to just offer IPMI offshore, due to compulsory insurance, tighter regulation and rising economic nationalism, global players need to invest in offices and partnerships, and make smart decisions about which markets to be involved in.
Additionally, we are seeing a massive rise in IPMI and PMI offerings from regional groups, local groups and single country insurers; and there are three big partnership deals that are changing the face of IPMI (Aetna/Allianz, Allianz/Sanlam and Bupa/Generali).
And a final, crucial point is that in many countries, even access to private healthcare may become so strained that hospitals may have to prioritise long-term partners such as insurance companies over one-time private patients.