Telehealth enhancing health microinsurance programs

In her article “m-Health: Remote access,” Milliman consultant Lisa Morgan discusses how mobile technologies, specifically telehealth services, are being used around the globe, from their incorporation into health microinsurance schemes in sub-Saharan Africa to rural health clinics in California, increasing provider reach.

Here is an excerpt:

There are many examples of telehealth in HMI [health microinsurance] schemes (typically telephone contact with a nurse or doctor).

‘Dial-a-doctor’ programmes are already reaching millions of members of large HMI schemes, as shown in Tables 1 and 2 (below). Unsurprisingly, tech-savvy youngsters under 40 have proved to be the earliest adopters.

…m-Health not only increases efficiency but has huge potential to change health-seeking behaviour. This in turn could translate to significant savings for entire healthcare systems. With recent experience in Africa, Jonathan Govender of Bupa sees shifting customers’ behaviour towards trusting mobile interactions as a key challenge. In the UK, Vitality has just launched its new app, ‘Vitality GP’. Time will tell whether we are ready for video chats with our doctors in the UK rather than face-to-face visits. Available to all members, the Vitality app provides direct access to a private GP from home or anywhere, video consultations within 48 hours, calls to doctors 24/7, direct referrals to consultants and delivery of written prescriptions.

…m-Health is increasing provider reach, effectiveness and productivity as much as it enables consumers to move to the centre of the healthcare universe and to receive care more naturally in daily life, whether in emerging or developed markets.

As this relatively young technology matures, generates more insightful data, and comes to be better understood, it may help propel provider and insurance transactions beyond the zero-sum logic that has historically limited options for patients.