Arguably the most significant change for the Group Risk industry as a result of the pandemic is the widespread adoption of digital health platforms which has not only transformed how employees access and think about health and wellbeing, but has also accelerated the rapid adoption of digital as a standard practice within the NHS. Whilst there is and will always be a need for in-person consultations, so much can now be delivered effectively with digital as an enabler – from models like pre-GP visit “e-consults”, requiring the patient to input data for the practitioner to review before a call or visit takes place, as well as platforms like LIVI, which is used widely.
This has meant that in general, access to care has become easier. The need to take time out of a workday to physically travel to and then wait in a GP surgery is no longer so much of a challenge, meaning employees can react much more quickly to a health issue, get help and advice from experts, and start to manage it.
Remote or hybrid working is another enabler here, as employees are much more likely to be able to work around timings for a virtual consultation from their home than if they were in a busy office with limited access to quiet spaces where they can share personal information in private. Businesses that require employees to be in a place of work should of course be taking action to create access to such places but, thanks to the extended hours provision of many private digital GP services, again this is less of an issue.
The opportunities created in the digital health space have been a core factor in some of the proposition developments Legal & General Group Protection have put in place over the last year or more. One of these is a long-term condition management support service, CONNECTPlus. The mission of its creators, HCI Digital, is to use technology to make a real difference to the way people manage their health. A critical success factor in tackling the many health needs facing an ageing and diverse population, and therefore workforce, is ownership of our own health which itself is empowered by understanding and the ability to influence our own outcomes.
The app focuses on six long-term conditions, including cancer, stroke, multiple sclerosis, diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis and Post-Covid-19 syndrome. The inbuilt features range from health trackers and scores to monitor pain or symptoms (useful for both patient and treating physician) as well as information videos, articles and blogs to provide support along with medication reminders and appointment reminders. It can be used by line managers and HR as well, helping them become better informed about the impact of one of the long-term conditions on their employee.
The Virtual Clinic that Legal & General Group Protection have launched more recently is also a digital enabler. The Virtual GP service that’s part of this new facility, recognises that not all conditions are the same and that the same condition can have different impacts on different people. That’s why each GP consultation is set at 30 minutes. It can of course be less than that, but at 3 times the duration of a standard NHS GP appointment, it allows for a more in-depth discussion to investigate more of the factors that can impact a patient’s recovery, including what this means in terms of their functional abilities in regard to their work.
We are not an island
The Virtual Clinic also brings with it some invaluable benefits in relation to family mental health. Anyone who has lived experience of a family situation where someone is struggling with their mental health will know that the impact is not isolated to that person. If it is a child, it is even more challenging as not only does the parent feel responsible and want to help, but invariably the support available through public services is hard to access due to a huge imbalance in terms of supply and demand. In fact, waiting lists for child mental health services are currently at around nine weeks, with treatment starting at 13 weeks. No parent wants to hear this when their child needs help straight away.
The Virtual Clinic’s mental health support, provided by Teladoc Health, includes child assessments for over 10-year-olds and parenting consultations for employees with under 10-year-olds.
Balancing the benefits of financial protection and wellbeing services
Group protection propositions have been quietly evolving for some time. But it is still common practice in our market to focus predominantly on the financial protection elements. For Group Life, this arguably makes sense, but when it comes to Group Income Protection (GIP) focusing only on salary protection arguably no longer does the proposition justice. It fails to acknowledge the needs of employers and employees as health and wellbeing become better understood and more advanced solutions available.
There’s a lot to GIP these days. How can we work together as an industry to better shift positioning and thinking?
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