9 Oct 2013
As more companies looking to to build their businesses seek opportunities abroad, providing the right package of benefits for their expatriate employees is growing in importance. At the core is private international healthcare cover to give employees access to high-quality healthcare, no matter where in the world they may be living and working.
At Aetna International, empowering people to live healthier lives isn’t just a motto, it’s the driving force behind the way the company conducts its business as a global healthcare solutions powerhouse. With more than 500,000 members on its international healthcare plans in nearly every country, the company takes seriously its responsibilities to give its members a seamless experience. Aetna International’s razor-sharp focus on its customers has seen the company emerge as a market leader, as well as winning European CEO’s Best Healthcare Solution 2013 award.
General Manager David Healy talks about the ways Aetna works to make its international private medical insurance offering unique, implementing new technology to improve customer service, and the future for Aetna
“Our customers need us most at a very crucial time in their lives when they have health issues and that’s when we need to be there for them,” says David Healy, Aetna International’s General Manager, Europe. “For people living abroad, accessing healthcare in another country can be daunting, whether it’s finding the right doctor, navigating an unfamiliar healthcare system or coping with language barriers. That’s why we have designed our services to provide a full range of support so our members can concentrate on getting and staying well.”
With a membership base in the four corners of the world, Aetna International understands the need to have both a strong global reach and an on-the-ground presence in its main market regions. Local offices can be found in London, Dublin, Dubai, Hong Kong, Beijing, Shanghai, Jakarta and Singapore, as well as throughout the US. The result is round-the-clock services whenever its members need help or advice.
The company has a comprehensive service team of nurses, doctors and other clinicians who are on call to help members who are recovering from an illness or trying to manage a chronic disease. People who are hospitalised typically get a call from an Aetna nurse after discharge to help them understand their health condition, treatment and doctors’ follow-up recommendations. The outreach, says Healy, has been well received: “It’s not unusual for someone who has been seriously ill to need some extra support, especially if they are living in another country and trying to cope with a different healthcare system. Our members really appreciate hearing from us and knowing we are there to help coordinate their care.”
The health advisory team offers a range of services, such as assistance with pre-trip planning, obtaining prescription medications, identifying medical providers, and maternity management. Members can even make telephonic appointments to receive health coaching and wellness tips. If there’s a medical emergency that requires the member to be evacuated to another country to obtain suitable medical treatment, the health advisory team helps handle the logistics to ensure the member’s safety and take the worry out of a difficult situation.
With care and disease management programmes embedded in its healthcare cover, Aetna International prides itself on its empathetic, holistic approach to its customers. “We care about our members’ health,” says Healy.
Apps and technology
Expatriates often rely heavily on the latest mobile apps and technological gadgets to manage their busy lives on the go. At Aetna International, a central strategy is to develop technology that can make managing one’s health and healthcare benefits as easy as handling one’s bank account. Its free international healthcare provider apps let its members find doctors, clinics and hospitals all over the world that have direct-settlement arrangements with the insurer.
“We have more than 100,000 providers in our network that will bill us directly for services, eliminating the need for our members to pay out-of-pocket first before being reimbursed,” says Healy. “What’s more, our large size gives us the buying power to negotiate discounts with healthcare providers, which helps contain costs for our cover.”
For those times members do need to file a claim, an app introduced earlier this year makes it easy to handle the task from a smartphone.
By nature, our products are complex and we operate within highly regulated environments
A few clicks will submit the necessary paperwork and get the process rolling for reimbursement. The same app lets members check their account to view and manage their claims and connect quickly to Aetna International’s customer service team.
Since understanding a complex product like healthcare benefits can be challenging, Aetna International members have the opportunity to ‘Ask Nick,’ a virtual benefits assistant accessible through a mobile device or the company’s website. Through a lively, interactive and often humorous conversation, Nick offers easy-to-understand explanations of the intricacies of its healthcare benefits.
For people who want to know why their shoulder hurts or why they can’t shake off a persistent cough, there’s Aetna’s iTriage, a wildly popular free app with nearly 10 million downloads. The app was developed by two emergency-room doctors in the US to let people look up symptoms and learn about possible causes. Users can examine treatment options, procedures and costs for conditions, research medications and their side effects, determine if a trip to the emergency room is necessary, and store their personal health information. In the US, users can also find local hospitals and treatment centres and even book an appointment with its doctors – all from their smartphones.
When healthcare reform in the US became law in 2010, the Affordable Care Act numbered more than 900 pages, an indicator of how complicated a government’s regulations can be. Around the world, countries of all sizes have their own rules about healthcare cover, some pertaining to their citizens, others applying to foreign nationals living within their borders.
Understanding all the country-specific rules is a must for any international private medical insurance company. For Aetna International, compliance with each country’s regulations is a top priority.
“By nature, our products are complex and we operate within highly regulated environments,” says Healy. “As a result, legality and compliance are of utmost importance to us in the way we design and sell our products and how we operate with the healthcare providers in our network. On a daily basis, we marshal significant resources to make sure we are doing right by our customers and right by our members.”
Founded in 1853 in Hartford, Connecticut, Aetna, the parent company of Aetna International, is the third-largest health insurer in the US. With nearly 44 million members in America and abroad, the company has been at the forefront of innovation in healthcare benefits and a leader in the movement for affordable healthcare.
“Aetna has a phenomenal amount of knowledge and expertise, and a 160-year history of delivering excellence to its customers,” says Healy. “We’re able to infuse all that experience into our global business. Aetna’s financial strength as a Fortune 100 company gives us the support we need to grow into a truly global franchise.”