How did you first get started in the healthcare industry, and how did you come to be in your current role?
I started my career in the health insurance industry just over 20 years ago. I began working at Aviva in 1997, and since then I have had experience managing health insurance, medical, assistance and security services businesses. I’ve held a variety of senior roles in sales, client management and proposition development, and have been in general management roles for the last six years at Capita, Drum Cussac Group and now at UnitedHealthcare Global.
My current role is as CEO of UnitedHealthcare Global Solutions Europe, leading the European Division of UnitedHealthcare Global. The European insurance business was launched in 2019, providing in-house solutions for international private medical insurance, wellness, security, assistance and remote medical services. Our full range of solutions makes our offering unique in the European market.
How has your previous experience in the industry prepared you for your current role?
I became CEO of UnitedHealthcare Global in April 2019 and prior to this role, I was Managing Director of the remote medical services division based in the UK. I continue to run this business, but I am now also responsible for leading the insurance entity in Europe, which creates alignment under one European market.
My prior experience at Aviva, Capita and Drum Cussac has given me a unique insight into the global health and assistance market, and an in-depth understanding of the requirements of companies with globally mobile populations. The wider industry experience has been invaluable to me in my current role.
The world’s population is ageing, and more and more people are dealing with lifestyle diseases. How is UnitedHealthcare Global working to deal with these trends?
At UnitedHealthcare Global we believe the most effective and efficient way to deal with lifestyle diseases is by taking a preventative and proactive approach. Taking a preventative approach to healthcare allows individuals to take ownership of their own health, which results in better health outcomes in the long term. We understand that people don’t always have the time to do things like visit a doctor or collect prescriptions, so we designed our products to be accessible and easy to use.
UnitedHealthcare Global’s Virtual Health Assessment Programme provides an online health assessment for families prior to an overseas assignment. This helps identify conditions at the earliest opportunity and allows time for a suitable management plan to be put in place if necessary. Additionally, we offer the Optum My Wellbeing app, allowing individuals to connect and compete with one another in various challenges that incorporate fitness into their daily routines. Users can provide feedback on how they’re feeling and participate in challenges with other colleagues such as step counts and running challenges.
Increasingly, health insurers are coming around to the idea that mental health is as important to deal with as physical health. Expatriates are a demographic among whom mental health issues can be very prevalent – what sort of strategies are you following to help customers manage their mental health?
Conversations around mental health in recent years have really opened up, and it’s great to see that more health insurers are recognising the link between mental and physical health, particularly in relation to employees who have been placed overseas for work. Knowledge of mental health issues has improved significantly over the past decade and UnitedHealthcare Global is committed to looking after individuals’ mental wellbeing in addition to their physical wellbeing.
I find the most rewarding aspects of my job are the real improvements and benefits we can make to the health of people living and working abroad
It is essential that employers thoroughly prepare their employees for the unknown when moving them to new environments. It is important to include all family members in any pre-preparation – ensuring spouses and children enjoy a positive relocation experience. We offer pre-assignment medical screening to ensure that potential health concerns are identified at an early stage, and specific plans are put in place. We also encourage employers to establish clear lines of communication, so employees feel comfortable asking for support. Our employee assistance programme offers employees face-to-face, online or telephone counselling so that no matter where a person is in the world, they have a strong support system to assist them.
Focusing on mental health and making it a key part of any health and wellbeing strategy helps ensure a positive experience for the employee, his or her family, and the employer.
How can companies support individuals with the cultural challenges of an expatriate assignment?
Companies sending employees overseas have a responsibility and a duty of care to ensure they understand the cultural differences in their new home country. Offering cultural training is a simple but effective way to educate members and help them to navigate the cultural challenges that come with moving abroad, both in the workplace and at home. Tailored cultural training helps individuals avoid culture shock, which in turn can help companies avoid a costly failed assignment.
There are several ways that companies can help support individuals with the cultural challenges that come with moving overseas. ‘Buddying up’ an employee with someone who has recent experience in the destination country is a comfortable way for employees to feel like they can ask questions ahead of assignment. Additionally, offering employees language tuition is a great way to boost confidence when making such a big transition – even the most basic language knowledge can make a big difference when settling in to a new country. Companies must also remember that it’s not just a change for the employee, but also for their family. Ensuring that the whole family receives some form of cultural training, can help ensure families are fully prepared and ready to enjoy a life abroad.
How is telemedicine helping to deliver such services and how is the proliferation of digital and remote healthcare impacting the international healthcare industry?
Advances in technology and consumers’ ability to readily access information and goods online has reduced the need for traditional physical infrastructure. Healthcare has perhaps been slower to adapt to this trend than other sectors, however ‘virtual care’, or interactions between patients and providers outside a traditional bricks-and-mortar setting, is now catching up. Virtual care is particularly important for those in remote locations such as expatriates.
UnitedHealthcare Global’s Virtual Visits is a secure telemedicine service that makes it simple for employees and their dependants to speak with a healthcare professional through their mobile or desktop devices while on assignment. From treating colds and fevers to caring for migraines and allergies or getting a referral letter, it makes connecting with a doctor easy and free while on the move.
What would you say are the biggest challenges facing the international private medical insurance industry in the coming years?
The international private medical insurance industry is constantly evolving and changing, so it can be challenging for businesses to ensure their offer is relevant and up to date. UnitedHealthcare Global has decades of international experience from different markets, and our goal is always to apply this knowledge to add value to companies and support their staff.
Many of the challenges facing healthcare systems today are similar to those that we’ve faced in the past or elsewhere in the world. We can use our expertise to provide excellent care and peace of mind to employees who live or travel abroad on work assignments.
Can you describe a typical day in your role?
I’m not sure there is such a thing as a typical day at UnitedHealthcare Global, but my job certainly involves a lot of travel, meeting new people and discussions with other organisations. Ever since we launched in the UK and Europe, we’ve been experiencing a period of significant change for the business, which means that every day is different – something I thoroughly enjoy!
Which aspects of your role do you enjoy the most, and which are the most challenging?
I find the most rewarding aspects of my job are the real improvements and benefits we can make to the health of people living and working abroad. Health is such an important part of people’s lives, and I feel privileged to be able to support it. When we feel healthy, we all live happier lives and are better employees. ■