Covid-19 and emerging consumer habits: preventative health care

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

Benjamin Frankin

There is much we don’t know about the impacts of Covid-19, but one obvious and immediate impact has been an increased death toll: the Faculty & Institute of Actuaries’ Continuous Mortality Investigation noted that there have been 100,600 excess deaths in the UK from the start of the pandemic up until May 2021[1].

Concerningly, emerging evidence suggests that there will be a short to medium-term impact from Covid-19 with respect to a fall in preventative health care. The US Health Care Cost Institute (HCCI) produced a report analysing claims from US health claims clearinghouse records. The report looked at over 270 million claims data over 2019 and 2020 and concluded that “…people have chosen to forego care they would otherwise have received with potential implications for their long-term health and well-being”[2].

Anecdotally, many individual medical practitioners have sounded the alarm regarding the hesitancy of patients in having their regular check-ups and postponing important surgical interventions for fear of contracting Covid-19 whilst in hospital.

So much for the immediate and short-term impacts. What about the potential long-term consequences of Covid-19 on preventative health outcomes?

Looking into the crystal ball

In a future where daily life returns to normal and people re-enter a cycle of regular check-ups, will the experiences of Covid-19 result in different preventative behaviours? Can we look forward to a more enlightened and careful future of prevention and health-conscious behaviours?

Only time will tell, but what is certain is that unprecedented global public health programmes have effectively informed people on how to prevent the spread of germs.

Proximity to others, effective sanitation, nutrition and a host of other behaviours have been front of mind for the past year. This knowledge and these new habits of prevention will surely remain in one form or another, impacting various aspects of the insurance industry.

Three areas highly relevant to insurance and where I believe innovation could capitalise in relation to longer-term health-conscious behaviours are as follows.

Wellness receives a boost

A more health-conscious consumer may have a more positive perception of wellness and preventative health products. However, wellness offerings in general, might experience greater adoption or appreciation.

How can insurers adjust these products to communicate their benefits in ways aligned with how they have come to see prevention in the age of Covid-19? New thought leaders or sources of authority have emerged from the pandemic presenting an opportunity for new partnerships. The world has been through a troubling, dark time and certain institutions have proven to be insightful and trustworthy. Finding these partners and weaving this goodwill into new product designs and programme offerings presents a powerful opportunity to benefit from the behaviour changes generated over the past two years.

Remote working v office-based employee benefits

Remote work presents several positive outcomes for workers and I previously wrote about how we see insurance workforces, particularly adapting to this new norm. However, remote work can produce new challenges, such as feelings of isolation and a lack of relationships with coworkers, impacting employees’ mental and physical health.   

As people return to the office, employers have an opportunity to step up and protect employees from these new stresses and challenges brought about by remote work.

There is also an opportunity for businesses to introduce new product design features or access new sources of scale. With the rise of remote work, new products and services need to cater to different needs. For example, daycare facilities for those working from home with children, or perks such as discounted office hot desks, or discounted travel to work-friendly accommodation in another country/city.

Nudging new behaviours

Beyond just being more appreciated, behaviourally guided insurance interventions and wellness programmes can leverage and encourage these new behaviours.

Could wellness programmes incentivise healthy remote work behaviours? For example, incentives to ensure someone leaves their house when working remotely to prevent “cabin fever” harming mental wellness. Working from home frees up time previously used for commuting – wellness programmes could nudge people to fill that time with exercise.

While we know that the short-term impacts of Covid-19 have been devastating, there is good reason for optimism looking forward. New habits and ways of living present new pathways to encourage healthier lifestyles among insurance customers. We may not know what the longer-term health impacts of Covid-19 might be, but it is clear that insurers have an opportunity to innovate and better meet new customer needs.

MBE transforms actuarial performance. As a team of actuaries, entrepreneurs and systems experts we believe that the insurance industry is undergoing a fundamental shift as the various new forces encompassed in insurtech gain momentum. We partner with insurers to create a culture of continuous innovation which will be crucial to the prosperity of the insurance industry in the years to come.

Contact us to discuss how we can help you innovate your business.


[1] https://healthcostinstitute.org/hcci-research/the-impact-of-covid-19-on-the-use-of-preventive-health-care

[2] Mortality pandemic monitor

Tyron Fouche