The world has changed drastically since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. The novel coronavirus has created havoc in everyone’s life by openly challenging the way it was being led so far.
Since the start of 2020, several countries went into a lockdown that lasted for months. Social distancing has been proven as the best way of keeping the virus at bay even though the pandemic shows no signs of stopping.
As per the World Health Organization (WHO), 20,120,919 people across the globe have been diagnosed with COVID-19 disease out of which 736,766 people have died as of August 12, 2020. While the United States is leading with 5,039,709 cases, Brazil stands second with 3,057,470 cases followed by India with 2,329,638 cases. Among other worst-hit countries are Russia and South Africa with a tally of 897,599 and 563,598 cases respectively.
The data clearly signifies that COVID-19 is here to stay and people need to evolve themselves by finding ways to lead their lives while combating coronavirus on the side.
With social distancing as the new norm in this COVID-19 era, people are increasingly moving towards digital platforms to buy goods and services in a bid to avoid exposure to the virus. In compliance, several industries have turned digital, if they hadn’t already, to stay put for their customers. Besides, organizations worldwide have adopted work from home regime for the safety of their employees unless the pandemic situation normalizes.
At a time when countries are moving towards an economic slowdown, going digital is the only middle-ground for companies to stay connected to their consumers and survive. One industry which is utilizing the present situation in the best way possible is health insurance.
Health Insurance and Digitization
With the onset of COVID-19 pandemic, the insurance industry has also been forced to switch its offline business operations to online platforms. In the US, several insurers had to temporarily close down their brick-and-mortar business and resort to online execution of their business activities. The situation is not very different in other countries.
The good part is that health insurance digitization works well with the need for social distancing. The fear of coronavirus has led to a boost in the demand for health insurance. People can access health insurance products online from their homes without the need for meeting an agent or visiting the branch of an insurer. Ultimately, they manage to stay home and away from the coronavirus but still buy health insurance for themselves and their family.
However, the concept of conducting insurance business online is not new to many countries, including South Africa and India. The seed of digitization in the health insurance industry had been sown over the decade in such countries. Insurance companies in India allow customers to buy their health insurance plans online. The online activities are not just limited to buying insurance over the internet but also extended to health insurance policy renewals, claim intimation and claim settlement among other services.
Moreover, several countries have online insurance aggregators that offer health insurance quotes from multiple insurance companies at one place. The customer can compare these quotes and also purchase the chosen health insurance policy at the aggregator’s website.
For instance, people in South Africa can check health insurance quotes online at healthmarkets.com. Similarly, people in India can compare and buy health insurance online at policybazaar.com. Even in the United Kingdom, medical insurance can be bought online through a web aggregator.
Impact of COVID-19 on Health Insurance
It is difficult to point out the exact impact of COVID-19 on the health insurance industry globally as it unfolds with each passing day. However, the insurance industry is affected by other industries that it supports. Therefore, countries with stringent healthcare measures and loss of employment due to COVID-19 will see an indirect impact on the recovery and growth of the health insurance industry. It has been observed that countries, where lockdown had been imposed, saw an adverse impact on the premium collection by insurance companies.
On the brighter side, the health insurance industry has adopted digitization at par with the banking industry during the pandemic by increasing their online business penetration with the help of technological advancements, including artificial intelligence. It has led to increased opportunities for engaging with the customers online and delivering insurance services digitally. Besides, digital payment channels launched by the banks are also benefiting the health insurance industry at large.
Impact of Health Insurance Digitization Post COVID-19
The COVID-19 pandemic may be short-lived but it will change the social and behavioural patterns of individuals. This change will act as a catalyst to boost virtual engagement amongst health insurers and their customers no matter the physical distance. It will result in a jump in the migration of customers from offline to online platforms to access health insurance services. Moreover, the presence of smartphones, digital payment options and online delivery of health insurance can further lead to the growth of the industry.
With the digitization of health insurance, the customers may expect virtual KYC process and underwrite apart from purchase and renewal of the policy. Health insurers may also use remote sensing to assess an accident and conduct a virtual inspection to approve cashless claims. Even the minute details may be focussed on by the company to enhance the customer experience and eliminate any trouble that they may face.
The COVID-19 pandemic may also impact the way health insurers interact with their customers. The health insurance companies will have to move beyond the goal of making profits to easing the impact of sudden life changes, such as a pandemic, on the lives of their consumers. The insurers will have to come up with innovative products and services that will help in physical as well as the financial well-being of the customers during stressful times.
Summing It Up
Nobody saw the COVID-19 pandemic coming. However, digitization efforts put in by the health insurance industry over the years has led them to quickly adapt to digital space and stand at a somewhat comfortable position during this pandemic. So health insurance providers must strive to introduce innovative products that can address the needs of their customers digitally while ensuring their own survival.