The ITIJ team have been reporting live from ITIC Global in Barcelona this week (November 2023) sharing the discussions that took place at the conference. Read all reports
Dr Francois-Xavier Duchateau, Group Chief Medical Officer, Allianz Partners
First to speak was Dr Francois-Xavier Duchateau, Group Chief Medical Officer at Allianz Partners. He started by speaking about the fact that people are happy when things save them time and money, and this will help lead to adoption of new technology. He added that 48 per cent of people were happy that telemedicine saved them time; 47 per cent said it was more convenient; 34 per cent said they are happy they can use it any time; and 34 per cent said they thought it was more effective than the traditional health route.
Duchateau said the future aim for Allianz is to meet the high expectations of members. They aim to drive convenience through a natural and ambient healthcare experience.
Artificial intelligence (AI) and advanced analytics (AA) will advise people on how to prepare for a trip, and then if an unexpected medical condition arises, a teleconsultation will be advised, a face-to-face appointment booked, and treatment managed. Claims management can also take place.
Duchateau went on to say that telemedicine will be part of the value proposition in travel. He said there is an increasing demand for easy access, self-service platforms, and this is a response to digital nomads’ needs.
Their guided journey will include an assistance platform, a review of symptoms, and a teleconsultation. The telemedicine customer journey will be simplified, and if a life-threatening situation occurs, the patient will be redirected to another emergency channel, teleconsultation or teleadvice. He added that it is important that the doctor is licensed in the country that the customer is in.
Duchateau concluded by saying that telemedicine gives customers easy access and a customer-centric experience; that it respects local regulations; it offers high quality standards from selected or controlled providers; it offers opportunities of cost containment; and that ideally it is part of an integrated model as opposed to a stand-alone solution.
Noelle Weinrich, Director of Product, GeoBlue
Next to speak was Noelle Weinrich, Director of Product at GeoBlue. Weinrich started by saying the evolution of telehealth and advancement in technology has broken down geographic barriers to accessing medical care, and has expanded the types of providers and services that can be delivered remotely.
She then covered three main trends:
Trend 1: Hybrid care model – a mix of virtual care and in-person evaluations
She said the scope of telemedicine transforms access to care, and that there is increased access in specific specialties and for chronic conditions.
Trend 2: Remote mental health support – six out of ten conditions are behavioural health conditions
Weinrich said that in the Healthy Minds annual survey, which received responses from 96,000 US students across 133 campuses during the 2021–22 academic year, 44 per cent reported symptoms of depression, 37 per cent said they experienced anxiety and 15 per cent said they have considered suicide – the highest rates in the survey’s 15-year history.
The WHO Student project discovered that 35 per cent of the 13,984 respondents in the main sample reported at least one mental disorder, and that students who self-identified as either transgender or ‘other’ had a much higher prevalence of any disorder. While a record-breaking 37 per cent of students have accessed professional services in the past year, shortcomings, like a lack of diversity and cultural competency, persist, she said.
Weinrich then spoke about employee assistance programmes for corporate expats (EAPs). She said that twice as many expatriates, compared with US-based workers, expressed feelings of being anxious, stressed and lonely.
Trend 3: Inversion of medicine – patients are taking the reins of their wellbeing
Weinrich said that Covid-19 increased the adoption of telemedicine, and that 91 per cent of providers said they will continue to use it. She added that the comprehension of medical information after a consultation impacts the patient’s satisfaction, and that the number of employers fully integrating virtual care services into their benefit programme increased 40 per cent over the past 18 months. Almost one in two employers report that digital care is becoming ‘central’ to their benefits strategy.
Weinrich finished by stressing that strong campaigns can almost double engagement. She advised using anonymised high-level consult information and user satisfaction scores to understand how, when, and why members are using the service.
Daniel Birrer, Head of Products and Sales, Medi24
Last to speak was Daniel Birrer, Head of Products and Sales with Medi24, who discussed telemedicine in the Swiss healthcare system.
Birrer started by saying that standardised processes guarantee patient safety, and said that level-appropriate teleconsultation and gatekeeping is important.
He went on to talk about telemedicine’s vertical integration in healthcare, and said telemedicine is an integral part of health insurance products. He said that telemedicine supports independent medical practices and hospitals, and it relieves the burden on general practitioners. Birrer said that chronic care management is part of integrated patient care.
He added that digital services mean that patients can be supported 24/7, 365 days a year, and said that 70 per cent of consumers already see added value in digital health solutions. Those consumers who can identify the advantages, see these particularly in: better availability of health services (27 per cent); improved transparency (23 per cent); and greater safety in an emergency (16 per cent).
He said recent studies demonstrate increasing trust in digital solutions in the health sector. This is a positive trend recognisable over the last few years. He added that health insurers and telemedicine providers should ask themselves how they can best address customer expectations of digital health. Where are partnerships needed? What are the basic technical requirements?
Birrer said that there is great potential in the provision of digital solutions for the older population, and that 91 per cent of consumers are open to digital support (as revealed in an Accenture study from 2022). The rising care costs and the shortage of care staff and care homes are some of the drivers of the interest in new digital solutions. For health insurers, this customer need and the current market situation provide an opportunity to enter into attractive ecosystem relationships and partnerships, and/or to launch innovative products independently.