“… want to become the first point of contact when it comes to your health …”
We interviewed Peter Eichler about the future of medicine. He explains why it’s necessary to develop new products and provides a first glance at the new UNIQA Mobile app, which will allow customers to view and settle bills for future health benefits on their smartphone.
How will health insurance as a product change in the future?
We are holding a series of future workshops right now to find that out. In these workshops, we are working together with employees from a broad variety of departments and concentrating on exactly this question. The idea is to focus on topics that make the product more viable in the future. For example, we are examining what the world might look like in the year 2030. In a second step, we are thinking about how we can take what we learned in the first step and let it flow into product solutions. And what has emerged from this is the realisation that it’s not just digitalisation that we have to overcome. People also have age-old needs that we can’t yet satisfy in this form.
For example, the question of how we can avoid extremely long waiting times in the outpatient section of the hospital outside of office hours, especially in urban areas. At the beginning of the year, we launched a new product for acute care insurance “Akut-Versorgt” that allows patients with acute problems to seek first treatment in the Döbling Private Hospital. And that’s been extremely well received. The first step was to offer acute care insurance to existing customers in Vienna, Lower Austria and Burgenland for a current monthly premium of just under €6.
What kind of products are you thinking about when you look to the more distant future?
I imagine that UNIQA will become a positive companion for life. People should turn to us if they need advice about health-related topics. Above all, I would like us to be there for our customers with medical assistance whenever their own physician isn’t available.
Management Board member responsible for personal insurance
What kind of medical developments do you expect by 2030 and how will that change things for you as a health insurer?
Many people are only thinking about how processes and customer needs will change. They forget that a major decisive factor is the development of medicine itself. And there is a real revolution underway here, ranging from genetic engineering – meaning the manipulation of genes for medical purposes – through artificial intelligence, telemedicine and robotics, to nanomedicine. The networking of knowledge will become much more important. The same will apply to prevention, meaning the targeted avoidance of disease onset by means of early detection. Last but not least, it’s also about finding a way to align the costs that we will incur with the needs of our customers.
The old truck has done its time.
After a total of 70,000 check-ups across Europe, the second UNIQA truck is now being sent into retirement. The success story now continues with two innovative box concepts. By mid-2017, two boxes will go into service, making it possible once again to offer fitness profiles and health check-ups, regardless of location.
What does this mean for private health insurance – will insurance benefits become more expensive?
Yes, in moderation. Digitalisation may lower costs per se, but the consequence of digitalisation and medicaldevelopment is that it is always possible to do more. In principle, this is good, and it’s exactly what everyone wants: more and more illnesses can truly be healed, ideally even avoided. But of course this requires a significant expansion of services, and that has its price. This development will very likely lead to a further shift towards health care spending in every individual’s expense portfolio. Hopefully this will continue to be countered by falling payments in other areas such as energy, clothing, etc. It will be our job to keep price developments affordable.
Let’s come back to the world of today. UNIQA has long offered products which customers can use to receive advice from physicians from the Medical Experts Centre – or can receive money back if they perform well on a fitness test. Are there going to be any other innovations going forward?
We will continue offering customers even more support in their efforts to stay healthy. This could lead to the logging of biometric data. Of course, the question here is what we plan to do with the data. But I can reassure you that we do not intend to use these recordings to further differentiate premiums. The data will be used exclusively to serve customers and help them to assess their own behaviour properly and to help them change themselves for the better.
UNIQA is currently developing a mobile app that will allow cu-stomers to view and settle bills for health insurance benefits. When will the app be ready?
The app is ready, in principle. But we want to test it in-house first, to play it safe. About 100 employees who are privately insured are going to try out the app. I think the app will be market-ready in the fourth quarter of 2017.
Acute care insurance “Akut-Versorgt” offers patients from Vienna, Lower Austria and Burgenland the choice to get primary care for acute conditions at the Döbling Private Hospital.