How does APRIL International cater to diverse workforces around the world, amending benefits to companies’ unique needs and regulatory requirements?
We have wholly owned subsidiaries and full-service offices in London, Paris, Mexico, Bangkok, Hong Kong, Singapore, Montreux, Shanghai, Jakarta, and Hô-Chi-Minh. These act as our foundation for adapting insurance cover to meet local needs and as a resource to ensure, when policies are sold on a regional or local basis, our clients are fully supported with appropriate, relevant local expertise.
The nature of this support can vary from the hiring of local staff to support diverse languages and cultural needs to more practical aspects, such as adapting our cover to dovetail with local state-provided healthcare, to keep costs down.
Our Easy Claim app is an essential aid to accessing local care, and now handles some 97 per cent of claims in most of the regions covered. The app holds a copy of the member’s details and includes GPS to find and check facilities available at medical establishments. It can be used to request a letter of guarantee, essential for hospitalisation and surgery, and allows users to check on reimbursements, view claims history and access telehealth services.
Are you seeing a return in the number of international students that need policies?
The bounce back in demand from international students has been a standout feature of the end of Covid restrictions in the UK. Not only are we seeing students who might have enrolled in 2020 and 2021 now wanting to come here, having deferred for up to two years, but equally, normal annual demand levels are holding up.
Asia has long been a big source of international students for the UK, with China being an important market, but we are seeing the levels of student numbers from India rising again too.
Whilst some international students can access free National Healthcare Service (NHS) care, some academic institutions now require insurance cover for Covid-19. Moreover, as overseas students generally pay higher tuition fees, their investment in a qualification is significant, so being absent from university due to illness is something they will want to avoid at all costs. The appeal of private healthcare can therefore be important, as it gives fast access to quality care to ensure the student recovers quickly and can rejoin their classes sooner.
What specific mental health coverage and support are these students asking for and how is the industry in general responding to these requirements?
There is no doubt that the pandemic has been something of a wakeup call, both for providers and insurance customers. Pre pandemic, no one imagined a lockdown or the demand for services it has produced. Mental health support is high on that list. Whilst vaccinations provide some comfort, reassuring people that they are protected from the worst of Covid, mental health conditions are still on the rise.
The pandemic also taught us the importance of remote consulting and being able to provide medical support to our customers without them leaving their home. As a result, all our customers now have access to TeleHEALTH, our service that includes expert mental health support. It is a free medical phone consultation system offering unlimited support 24/7 in 12 languages. The system allows policyholders to access a phone diagnosis with a qualified medical practitioner, so our customers do not have to leave their home or workplace to ‘see’ a doctor. This is ideal if, for example, a student is worried about a health issue, or just wants to talk to a qualified practitioner about a worry they have.
Are you looking at providing digital nomad cover, or seeing an increase in requests for insurance of this nature?
Digital nomads are in some ways a new market for us, but their needs are very similar to the individual expat who moves abroad working under contact. The main difference is that the digital nomads will choose the destination where they wish to live based on a lifestyle choice, whereas a contractor has to go to a location specified by the employer. We offer a comprehensive package of long- and short-term IPMI cover, which is well suited to this group. If a digital nomad is not experienced in living abroad, it may well be better for them to start with a short-term policy while they settle down and see if the move is going to work out.
At APRIL International, we believe digital nomads will require bespoke support defining their healthcare needs and which policy type is best for them. As a result, for brokers as well, this sector will require a lot of technical support.
Which country in the world do you think has the best healthcare system, and why?
This is almost impossible to answer, as many countries have very high-quality healthcare operations. Thailand, for example, has stood out for many years as a local centre of excellence, but other Asian countries have reacted and developed quickly following the pandemic. Europe is universally good, as is the Gulf and UAE, where excellent private hospitals have been a feature for many years.
For our policyholders, accessing the best healthcare is critical and this is where our assistance provider plays a key role. If local facilities are not deemed to be of a good enough standard to meet the medical need on the day, we will move the patient to the nearest centre of excellence free of charge. Equally, if a policyholder wants to be treated in a specific country, perhaps to be near family, we can arrange this too. Sometimes we might ask for travel costs to be covered if local facilities are good, but each case is looked at individually.
How is APRIL International using new technology to better serve its customers around the world?
New technology is of critical importance to delivering an ever-improving service. It defines market leaders from the smaller niche providers and we are determined that by 2023, APRIL will be market leading to become a digital, omnichannel and agile operator, a champion of customer experience. Our Group, which is based in 16 counties, had a turnover of over €544 million in 2021, is central to this strategy. It gives us the expertise and resources needed to research, fund, develop and deliver new, world-class technology.
Achievements to date include the roll out of our Easy Claim app, our TeleHEALTH service and other, more traditional technology-led solutions, such as e-cards and fast payment of fees internationally, both very important for policyholders. Equally, we have simplified the buying process through e-signatures and the adoption of a wide range of international payment platforms for premiums.
Processing and holding customer data securely is an absolute necessity, but when you are receiving medical reports from physicians all over the world treating your clients, how do you ensure compliance with local and international regulations with regards to data security?
It’s a given that leading edge and dynamic compliance and security systems now represent significant costs for any global company operating in an overseas market. We are fortunate to have a large, established Group whose substantial resources back our worldwide compliance activities.
Our worldwide network of wholly owned subsidiaries and local offices gives us real-time data on regulatory changes, so we understand the local intricacies and the importance of data security.
Global compliance standards are set down at a group level and cascaded to operating companies. With this infrastructure in place, the Group frequently arranges dedicated training sessions for local teams to ensure they meet and exceed local service standards. That initial training is backed up by a programme of continuous professional development as well.
Do you think the international insurance industry can further adapt in the future to better serve its customers? If so, how can it do so?
Improvements are always possible, and we believe these will be digitally driven. Already, we are seeing significant improvements to customer services that innovations, such as our app, digital wallet and online virtual health consultations have brought. These all have scope for development and are making a real difference to the speed and ease with which consumers can access their healthcare. Equally, when medical treatments are paid for, our digital systems ensure this is refunded faster, normally within four days.
What makes working in your region uniquely challenging, and how do you overcome such challenges?
For us, the greatest challenges lie at the aspirational level – constantly striving to improve service to innovate and to excite and support our brokers. Ours is a dynamic and fast-moving market, both from a regulatory and competitive standpoint, so we need to remain agile at all times.
Which region of the world has the most growth opportunities for the travel and/or international health insurance sector?
As the world recovers from the pandemic, we are expecting new opportunities to emerge. It is too early to forecast where these will be, but certainly some Asian countries have huge potential for growth, as competition with China hots up. At the same time, traditional markets such as the Gulf remain robust and are growing, as local economies develop. In Europe too, which many view as a mature market, we are seeing opportunities for providers of flexible and responsive healthcare to grow new markets.