Human beings may crave the trappings of wealth, but ultimately place greater value on good health in order to enjoy it.
The world’s population is living longer than ever before. World Health Organisation data shows that the global average life expectancy increased by 5.5 years between 2000 and 2016. This is the fastest the rate has increased in more than 50 years.
Healthcare under pressure
As society ages, so greater pressure is placed on local health systems. Even in developed nations, access to primary healthcare services is difficult to maintain as the elderly cohorts continue to grow in number.
Singapore is an example of an ageing population that is living longer, but not healthier. Having the world’s longest average lifespan at 84.8 years means that more than 10 years are spent in ill health.
Among those over the age of 60, 40% of them will have three or more chronic diseases. This is where the cost of healthcare treatment soon starts to add up.
Healthcare consumption across Asia is running at nearly US$1 trillion a year, but in 2017, the health protection gap was US$1.8 trillion. And it’s not getting any cheaper. In 2018, the cost of healthcare was increasing by 10% a year.
In the current COVID-19 dominated climate, digital healthcare channels could literally prove to be life savers. As a result, consumers are more engaged in preventing illness before having to treat it.
A brave new world
Prudential is going beyond its core business of providing protection and playing a greater role in helping people prevent and postpone the onset of diseases.
The launch of Pulse by Prudential, offers all Singapore residents 24/7 access to healthcare services and real-time health information (see image above). Pulse marks a step-change in health management by making healthcare more accessible and affordable.
Pulse users can check their symptoms; conduct a digital health assessment to better understand future disease risks; and seek timely health advice, any time and from anywhere, without leaving their home. This is particularly useful in view of the COVID-19 pandemic. Its in-app feature, Symptom Checker, is an artificial intelligence (AI) powered chatbot that offers information on health conditions based on the symptoms the user experienced.
At the end of the conversation, users are provided an appropriate triage outcome and recommended a next course of action. This ranges from ‘self care’, to visiting a pharmacist, through to whether a doctor or hospital might be more appropriate and just how urgent that trip might be. In each case, users are provided more information about the potential condition, where available. It will also provide alerts on specific symptoms and conditions that could be related to COVID-19.
Pulse also offers an AI-driven health assessment, Healthcheck. After completing a 15-minute digital questionnaire, users will receive a real-time report on their overall health and long-term disease risks based on factors such as their lifestyle habits, diet, medical history and mental health (see health check image above). The report is delivered through a ‘digital twin’ that offers users a better understanding of their health and future risks from disease, and the opportunity to seek timely health advice if necessary.
The Symptom Checker and Healthcheck are not designed to identify or diagnose specific diseases but give insight to the users so they may make an informed choice about the next stage of any treatment.
If they are unwell, they can have a video consultation with a doctor from the comfort of their homes. The panel of Singapore-licensed general practitioners (GPs) are available 24/7 (see talk to a doctor image below), and they are registered with the Singapore Medical Council. Pulse users pay a flat fee of S$15, excluding any medication that may be prescribed.
Pulse is available to all Singapore residents aged 18 and above – with the exception of pregnant women or those with long-term conditions.
Users gain access to these benefits without having to pay any subscription fees once they have downloaded Pulse and registered their profile.
Cover also extends to a daily allowance of for those hospitalised for COVID-19 under the S$1.5 million PRUcare package, which was established in February 2020.
The hospitalisation allowance for Prudential customers is S$200 daily until 31 July 2020 for up to three months of hospitalisation.
Non-Prudential customers receive S$100 daily till 31 May 2020 for a period of hospitalisation of up to three months.
More than S$800,000 has been paid out in cash benefits to those affected by COVID-19 as at end-April 2020.
Prudential Singapore’s CEO Dennis Tan said the spread of COVID-19 has increased the awareness and urgency to check symptoms experienced when we are unwell, and to take better care of our health and well-being.
“We have been working closely with health techs and local doctors to develop Pulse,” says Mr Tan. “The launch of the app in Singapore is timely in light of the COVID-19 spread and the nation’s circuit breaker measures.
“With Pulse, one can have real-time health information at their fingertips and ready access to a doctor without having to leave their homes.”
Consumers take control of their healthcare
Pulse is designed to encourage people to take greater responsibility for their health and well-being.
Mr Tan added: “Prudential has always believed in encouraging people to live well for longer. By leveraging health technology, we want to partner everyone in their health journey to prevent, postpone and protect against the onset of diseases which are often linked to lifestyle choices,” added Mr Tan.
In spite of growing engagement in personal health and fitness, allied to the growth of wearable tech devices, more than half of Singaporeans between the ages of 25 and 45 are making little or no effort to avoid common conditions such as type 2 diabetes and heart disease, according to Prudential research.
This cohort will be among the over 65 age group that by 2050 is expected to treble to 700 million. This generation may live longer lives, but with even higher levels of chronic disease.
“While we all know the importance of eating well and exercising right, many of us tend not to take care of our diet and fitness until it is too late,” says Tan. “We hope the Healthcheck function on Pulse can nudge people into being more proactive about preventative healthcare by making them aware of their potential disease risks and lifestyle gaps.”
Pulse proves popular
Pulse was first released in Malaysia in August 2019, and is being rolled out to 11 markets in Prudential’s Asian network. And the app has received a warm welcome.
In the two months following its launch in Malaysia, Pulse was downloaded about 100,000 times. Financial consultants are also using it as customer engagement tool.
In the same post-launch period in the Philippines, the app was downloaded more than 250,000 times.
In Hong Kong, Pulse was the top-rated free app on the IOS app store on its launch day.
Now live in eight of the target markets, including Singapore, it has received four million downloads by the start of May 2020.
Its popularity has been boosted by the free temporary cover offering protection against the costs of medical treatment for COVID-19, but Prudential hasn’t finished, yet.
More work to be done
The insurer has committed considerable resources to developing the app into a holistic health management tool. In time, users will have access to elements that allow them to track their fitness and manage chronic illnesses more effectively.
Wealth and business solutions will also be integrated, allowing users to view policy information and make claims via the Pulse app.
Business users, particularly SME customers in Asia, will receive access via Pulse to simple, efficient and integrated human resources (HR) and benefits management services.
From June 2020, HReasily will be the first of many Prudential services the company is making available to its SME customers via Pulse.
This provides access to HReasily’s cloud-based payroll, leave, claims, time and attendance, and HR management solutions through PruWorks.
Adding the functionality of SME services to Pulse shows Prudential’s intention to make Pulse a one-stop shop for health, wealth and business.
Healthcare is coming of age in the digital space. Pru’s product is focused on saving lives, and could go on to become a truly powerful tool in improving people’s long-term health and wealth outcomes.