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Digital healthcare – is widespread change afoot?

By Steve Bryan, Director of Distribution and Marketing at The Exeter | 01 April 2021

SUMMARY: Steve Bryan, Director of Distribution & Marketing at The Exeter looks at whether we could see a marked change in how we access medical services post-Coronavirus, and how The Exeter has started to see a change in behaviour from members.

The Exeter logo

In early 2020, I wrote an insight about HealthWise, The Exeter’s member benefits app, reminding advisers of its availability and the support it provides clients. At the time, pressure on the National Health Service (NHS) was starting to grow due to the impact of Coronavirus, and we were all keeping a watchful eye on developments.

Fast forward to today, and I don’t think any of us could have foreseen how the pandemic has impacted us and how much life as we knew it would change. Things that once seemed alien such as the wearing of face masks or social distancing are widely accepted. From the way that we socialise to how we exercise and work, we have all made changes to help manage the spread of the virus.

Changes for the better?

Whilst life since early 2020 has been anything but easy, could some of the changes forced upon us drive long-lasting, positive outcomes? Will more families and businesses benefit from wider flexible working arrangements? Will we more readily embrace remote health care options to manage our health and wellbeing? Will we see an upsurge in parents applying to become full-time teachers?

Whilst an increase in teaching applications may not happen, there will no doubt be some changes. One area where we may see a marked change is in the way we access healthcare services.

“Mr Bryan to room six”

For many of us, the days of sitting in a doctor’s surgery waiting for our names to pop up on the board to see a GP are a hazy memory. In the second half of 2020, 40% of all GP appointments in England were conducted remotely by telephone or video appointment, up 26% compared to the same period in 2019. This trend grew throughout 2020, with almost five and a half million more GP appointments being fulfilled remotely in December than in January of last year1.

It will be interesting to see how these figures change in 2021 as social distancing restrictions ease. Will health services continue to be provided remotely as standard practice? Will we see an increase in the breadth of treatment accessed digitally? Have we become more accepting of receiving medical advice without the need for a traditional face-to-face appointment?

Leading the way

Any changes making general healthcare more accessible without compromising the quality of care should be embraced by us all. But the roll-out of wide-ranging digital healthcare services on a national scale will take time and money to develop and implement.

The provision of access to remote healthcare is an area where the UK health and protection industry has continued to develop and innovate. From the inclusion of second medical opinion services or mental health support to the development of health and wellbeing apps, we have long been a driving force in the provision of alternative healthcare solutions.

These solutions have been developed with the customer in mind whilst complementing the services available through the NHS. And when they are easily accessible, providing quality care and support, they are widely embraced by customers.

Our own experience

Until late 2018, the additional support services offered by The Exeter were solely accessed by telephone. This traditional approach changed with the introduction of HealthWise, our member benefits app. Since its launch, HealthWise has driven a change in behaviour from our members. In 2020, 94% of support services were accessed through the app with overall usage more than doubling year-on-year2.

But it’s not just accessing services remotely which has changed, we have also changed how we support members:

  • 91% of remote GP appointments provided advice or an onward referral
  • 9% of members received a prescription for medication
  • 99% of ongoing mental health support was delivered remotely
  • 86% of physiotherapy treatments were recommended virtually through e-treatments2.

Looking forward

As we move through 2021, it will be interesting to see what changes arise from the Coronavirus pandemic and how we embrace them. One certainty is that the NHS will continue to face many challenges. Challenges that we will continue to do our bit, to help them overcome.

By Steve Bryan, Director of Distribution & Marketing at The Exeter

Steve joined The Exeter in July 2017, following a distinguished 20 year tenure at Legal & General. He is a member of the Main and Executive Boards and assumes the responsibility for the sales, marketing and product development teams. He brings a wealth of experience across the protection, mortgage and general insurance markets and has driven huge growth in business and The Exeter’s presence in the Intermediary arena since joining.

Steve has spent his entire career in Financial Services, joining Lloyds Bank immediately on graduation from the University of Leeds.

This didn’t drive his passion for Leeds United Football Club, that formed at a young age and, over 1,000 games later, Steve remains an avid supporter, mightily relieved about their return to the Premier League. Supporting the activities of his wife and daughter fill much of Steve’s spare time along with some regular ice skating!

1 digital.nhs.uk
2 The Exeter, 2020 HealthWise usage data

HealthWise services are provided by Square Health.

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