Insurers must take advantage of the digital wave and encourage more effective delivery and administration of healthcare. Mr Tharman Shanmugaratnam, Deputy Prime Minister and Chairman of the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS), who officiated the launch of Prudential's new workspace in Singapore, highlighted tele-health, which is increasingly used to save patients time and offer convenience. This market in Asia Pacific, he noted, is expected to grow by 12% annually to reach US$1.8 billion in 2020.
And there is significant room for health insurance to evolve and venture beyond just paying medical claims post-affliction, to preventive care and encouraging healthy lifestyles and habits – in effect, a structural change in the health insurance space. Asia, he added, is experiencing momentous demographic change, and will be home to 60% of those aged over 65 worldwide by 2030 – with countries in East Asia leading the way.
“This will place great demands on health care and retirement solutions, beyond the universal or mandatory schemes and retirement solutions that governments put in place in many countries.”
At home, the MAS chairman noted the ongoing rollout of TeleRehab services for stroke patients that is helping to deliver better health outcomes as doctors are able to monitor patients, making sure they follow through on rehabilitation without the inconvenience of regular physical travel to the clinic.
Mr Shanmugaratnam also noted the first tele-health trial by an insurer that was launched in 2016, which enabled policyholders at risk of heart problems to be monitored remotely so that abnormalities can be picked up in time, and issues detected before they became critical.
“I encourage insurers to partner with healthcare providers and research centres to test such applications and support the implementation of Smart Health platforms. It supports a paradigm shift towards preventive and sustainable healthcare management for policyholders.”
Notwithstanding, he recognised the industry’s efforts thus far, in which health insurers – including Prudential – have unveiled programmes to support healthier lifestyles, tracking customers’ health and habits through fitness devices and apps, and are pricing in premium discounts for healthier habits.