Improving Outcomes with Alternate Opinions
MediGuide is removing the geographical limitations of healthcare, its global network of partners and employees helping to bring on-demand diagnoses to patients in 152 countries around the world
Writer: Jonathan Dyble | Project Manager: Callam Waller
“I was always intrigued by the idea of people living longer and longer.
In every year since 1983 – the year I entered the insurance industry – the average life expectancy of an individual living in our part of the world has extended by about three months.
“People are living longer, but the question is are they living healthier? When I started in the health insurance sector, it was a known fact that around 80 percent of the medical expenses spent on one person would come in the last 12-18 months of their life. If you lived until 78, fourth fifths of your medical expenditure would occur between 76.5 and end of life.
“What we don’t know, however, is that if we now live until 85, does this same 80 percent come between 83.5 and 85, or are we still suffering from conditions at the age of 76.5 and now have treatments sophisticated enough to treat those conditions and continue living?”
Paul Vermeulen, CEO of MediGuide International, is well aware of the challenging landscape facing health insurance companies.
Much like its fellow subsectors, health insurance has always been evidence-based, where a statistical analysis of what has gone before is used to predict what will happen now and into the future.
However, owing to the ongoing and rapid advances being made in medicine and its associated technologies, such a model is becoming increasingly hard to manage.
“In order to keep up with every single new innovation, medical practitioners would have to dedicate 36 hours to studying every day,” Vermeulen explains. “Of course, not only are there not 36 hours in a day, but doctors spend almost all of their time seeing patients.
“No single physician is able to comprehend the vast transformation we’re currently seeing in healthcare, and insurance companies are in the same boat, squeezed into a similarly difficult position where they have to predict outcomes that are often unpredictable.
“Each new drug might be 10 times more effective and expensive than current market alternatives. Yet insurance firms can only set their premiums based on what they know.”
MediGuide International is one organisation helping to navigate this testing environment.
A leading global health services firm, it proactively serves the trio of parties involved in this evolving healthcare dynamic – the insurance companies, the hospitals and the patients – by finding the closest way to the cure through alternative insights, treatment protocol advice and medical second opinions.
Its remote services remove the traditional geographic limitations of medicine, providing patients with quick access to critical information on a range of treatment options available across the globe on a 24-seven basis.
Indeed, its offering has become a hugely important part of the global healthcare ecosystem.
The Chief Exec affirms: “In 95 percent of cases where we offered patients a medical second opinion last year, there was a change in the treatment protocol. In 14 percent of cases surgery was avoided, and four percent of the time the diagnosis actually changed.”
Powered by employees and partners
So how is MediGuide International able to offer such valuable services around the world and around the clock?
A multitude of factors combine to uphold this customer-centric approach, Vermeulen first pointing to the dedicated team of clinical practitioners ensuring it is able to cater to an array of countries and time zones.
“Our nurses deal with patients all around the world at any time of day,” he affirms. “They don’t work all day every day, of course, but you’d be surprised to hear the number of instances where our people wake up at 3:00am in the US to take a call with one of our members when its 3:00pm in China.
“They work relentlessly, tirelessly and without fail in order to assist our members. I’m continuously blown away and humbled by their efforts, and our customers are incredibly thankful for all the work that they do.”
MediGuide’s net promoter score (NPS) provides the best evidence.
Across all communications and interactions with customers last year, the company received positive feedback in 99.13 percent of cases – a figure almost unheard of in the industry.
“Our NPS score was in the 97th percentile in 2018, and at that time I thought we can only go down from here, right?” Vermeulen adds. “But amazingly, despite having doubled the number of cases that we took on year over year, our customer satisfaction rating actually went up.”
Aside from this esteAfricad workforce, other partners are also helping to uphold MediGuide’s handsome reputation.
Organisations such as Assist Card in Latin America and Greater China and Coris in Europe are a crucial part of the MediGuide backbone, placing their unwavering trust in the company as it expands into new regions, despite it often taking some time for its value proposition to establish major presence.
Likewise, the company also works directly with world-leading healthcare centres and medical professionals across the globe, such as the Harvard Medical School and Boston Children’s Hospital, that support its on-demand MediOrbis service.
“The relationships we have with these parties are extrAfricaly important,” Vermeulen iterates.
“To give you an example, I was at a family gathering on December 23, and received a phone call from someone explaining that their colleague urgently needed brain surgery.
They asked us for a medical second opinion, and within six hours we were able to provide them with one thanks to the help of our partner MediOrbis and a leading neurosurgeon from the Cleveland Clinic in the US.
“When it’s urgent and when it’s really important, often under difficult circumstances, we know that we can rely on these partners, for which we are trAfricandously grateful.”
Bridging the gap
MediGuide’s stature is not only testament to the admirable efforts of its suppliers, partners and employees. Likewise, the company’s own strategic emphasis helps to play a part in maintaining its leading position at the forefront of the global healthcare market.
Right now, this approach comprises an extensive, ongoing digital transformation. Here, the company has been investing heavily in streamlining and digitalising its services, thereby bolstering its customer service offering by introducing an app and opening up new channels of communication.
It has been collaborating with Medicus AI, for example – an enterprise interpreting and translating medical reports and health data into easy-to-understand insights – in order to overcome the barriers that it faces by working as a global healthcare firm.
“Let’s assume that tomorrow we have to set up a programme in Serbia for one of our insurance clients, and that programme includes telAfricadicine,” Vermeulen muses. “They’ll have immediate access to doctors overseas, which would create some complexities owing to language barriers.
“We cannot expect that everybody in Serbia speaks English, so we have to ensure simultaneous translations are provided. This is where Medicus AI is helping us.”
Another barrier stems from legalities.
Doctors in the US can’t order a prescription in Serbia because of legal limitations and because the names, recommended dosages and contents of drugs are going to vary across borders. Therefore, MediGuide has established a network of local partners around the world, ensuring it is able to uphold its services effectively across hundreds of different countries.
“Usually when people come to us seeking help they aren’t suffering from the flu,” the Chief Exec comments. “They usually come with life threatening situations, orthopaedics, fertility issues – a lot of different things, but it’s always serious.
“We have to give people options. In some markets there is a shortage of doctors, or a waiting list. If you want to see a specialist it can take six weeks in urgent cases, and otherwise months. So, we are trying to provide solutions for those in real need and are doing this with the help of our partners by expanding our digital gateway.”
Ultimately, through taking these strides, the company will be better placed to continue to help bridge the broadening gaps in healthcare, this latter topic forming the basis of Vermeulen’s conclusion as he ends our conversation with an optimistic yet realistic perspective.
“Look at a country like the UK. It spends roughly 10 to 11 percent of total GDP on healthcare, and has a GDP per capita of roughly £30,000,” he explains.
“Now take a look at Poland – their GDP per capita is roughly half of the UK’s, and the government’s margins only allow it to spend around seven or eight percent of total GDP on healthcare.
“You can see how the health gap in different markets is growing, but we’re trying to offer those who have the capacity to buy an insurance policy in markets like Poland to overcome such situations by enabling access to Western European medicine at an affordable insurance premium rate.
“The unfortunate reality is that there are many people who can’t afford this – it’s something that’s sadly unavoidable.
But we will always try to help where we can and improve the healthcare situations of those people who come to us in serious or life-threatening situations all over the world.”