Fulfilling healthcare needs

International Healthcare

US global health services organisation Cigna has released its 2017 Cigna 360° Well-being Survey, tracking the health and wellbeing of individuals in 13 markets worldwide.

This is the third annual research study from the company and its goal is to monitor and track the annual evolution of key emotional and psychological wellbeing indicators, with wellbeing scores calculated based on five pillars: physical, financial, work health, family health and social health.

According to Cigna, the Survey revealed a decline in perceived family welfare. It also found that workplace health benefits are a critical factor for employees and that use of digital healthcare technology and data sharing is rising.

“The insights we gained from this year’s study reveal international respondents’ concerns about how well they are able to take care of their healthcare needs,” said Jason Sadler, president of Cigna International Markets. “There’s a conviction that workplace insurance provided by employers is inadequate. We also see people falling into the ‘age trap’ by not planning well for medical expenses for retirement at a time where healthcare costs are rising. The good news is that respondents show a willingness to use digital technology and, importantly, share personal data to improve their healthcare and health awareness, especially if it lowers costs.”

The survey found that the largest decline in scores was in the area of family welfare, which dropped from 70.8 per cent in 2015 to 65.8 per cent in 2016. According to respondents, they suffered from a lack of money and time to take care of their families. “People work longer hours to support family needs – and children usually come first – but people feel frustrated about the resulting lack of time spent with family,” said Sadler. “Planning for personal healthcare and retirement needs is often a distant priority.”

Cigna found that when it asked what benefits survey respondents considered basic for healthcare coverage and compared these with benefits received from employers, respondents identified a negative gap for general practitioner consulting fees, hospitalisation benefits and annual health check-ups. Close to 20 per cent of respondents did not have a health check in the last 12 months and the UK was found to be the worst case, with 34 per cent going without.

Regarding the importance of workplace wellness programmes, although they were not found to be a major reason to select an employer, they were frequently cited as a reason to stay with an employer. “Their importance as a retention tool was higher for the 18 to 39-year-old segment,” said David Maltby, president of Cigna Global Health Benefits. “Good healthcare coverage benefits were rated highly by all respondents in the survey as a draw to new employers.”

In terms of ageing and health, the study showed that there is an ‘age trap’, where respondents don’t perceive themselves as ‘old’, regardless of their age, and have not done the necessary planning for retirement expenses, particularly increased healthcare needs. “It’s clear what we call the ‘age trap’ is part and parcel of the financial inadequacy issue we identified around family – extended into older age,” said Sadler. “Respondents, especially in Asia, want an active engaging life after they retire, and longer life spans are making that possible. However, too often healthcare coverage is insufficient as expenses start to escalate.”

When it comes to the future of healthcare, most respondents said they currently use or plan to use health apps in the coming year, and 45 per cent expressed willingness to share personal health data with a larger community for the good of all, especially with doctors, a national health database and global bodies such as the World Health Organization (WHO).