"Proactive referral, leading to an assessment of the client’s needs, followed by the provision of the most appropriate support, is more likely to lead to better outcomes, as intended by Consumer Duty."
- Christine Husbands, commercial director at RedArc
Data released by AIG Life has shown that by the end of April, customers had sought 53k GP appointments via Smart Health since its launch in August 2019. Alison Esson, propositions manager at AIG Life, told Simons that “It’s always been the most used service, but we expected that because we researched it before we launched our proposition.”
“It’s used across all ages, across all product types, so it’s a very levelling service. It really does help people. The feedback we get is how fantastic it is to get hold of a doctor so quickly,” she continued.
Likewise, Emma Astley, owner of CoverMyBubble, said that “on our first calls we have conversations about these benefits.” She felt that virtual GP services were very valuable since “many families are struggling with their surgeries and wait times to try and grab an appointment for them or their children.”
However, Paul Gambon, sales and marketing director at Medicash, thinks that providers offering virtual GP services as a free and unlimited service can “give the impression these services are inexpensive to offer.” When there’s “significant cost to this service and the dramatic adoption of virtual GPs will mean that changes to the provision are likely to happen going forward.”
“With these risks to the overall sustainability of cover, we expect providers will begin looking to move away from the free, unlimited virtual GP services initiated during the pandemic in favour of offering a fixed number of sessions per customer,” Gambon warned.
Isaac Feiner, owner of Lifepoint Healthcare, agreed that the UK “may just have to get used to the idea of paying for their own healthcare.” He believes that since the system is “somewhat broken,” self-funding healthcare from time to time is one of the ways it will be alleviated.”
Earlier this week, RedArc predicted a surge in proactive referrals for added-value support following the implementation of the Consumer Duty in July. The nurse-led health & wellbeing provider felt that “the wealth of support added to many insurance policies – including for critical illness, mental health and bereavement – will help meet the requirements of the Consumer Duty.”
Christine Husbands, commercial director at RedArc, explained that “when a client is faced with a long list of potential support available to them – often at a time when they’re vulnerable – they don’t know where to start” and that self-referral can lead to people to “self-navigate, and they don’t always fully understand what support entails or what is most appropriate.” Husbands suggested that this can lead to “gaps in the support they should receive.”
Instead, she believes a proactive referral, at the point of claim, is the better option since that’s where we have the opportunity to “triage a client, and give them all the support that’s most appropriate for them.” As such, it’s important to make added-value services accessible to provide the most appropriate support.
Commenting on the recent industry doubts about the sustainability of added-value services, Husbands stressed that there is “no doubt that virtual GP services in the UK protection market have grown in popularity over the last few years but with that growth may come doubts about the sustainability of free and unlimited provision of them.”
“However, it’s important to remember that there are many more added-value services designed to help people suffering from serious illness and in other vulnerable circumstances, and we’d encourage good use and communication of these to ensure they’re utilised as intended. It is this category where we advocate proactive referrals at point of claim to ensure that support is accessed by those who are entitled to it at difficult times for them and their families.
“It is important that a distinction is made between the different types of added-value services and their sustainability. There is a danger that all added-value services are viewed the same – but if GP services become unsustainable, it doesn’t mean that all added value services are,” she concluded.