Therapies — 01 March 2017

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Medibank is beefing up its health services offering with plans to double the operating profit of that division as it looks to be more than a health insurer.

Andrew Wilson, Medibank’s group executive healthcare & strategy, has revealed that this year, the nurses, doctors, mental health professionals and healthcare workers employed by Medibank Health would handle 1.9 million calls and online chats through services such as Beyondblue, 1800respect, Nurse on Call and After-hours GP. “Around eight years ago Medibank made a strategic decision to become more active in healthcare,” Mr Wilson said.

“Rather than just be a payer for healthcare services, we wanted to be actively involved in the healthcare that was provided not only to our own members but other Australians. Insurance is still the biggest part of our business but we think to really make a difference in healthcare we really need to be involved in delivery, not just payment of services.”

The growth in the health services business has seen turnover jump from about $100 million when that division first started to about $500m.

“The number and complexity of services and number of Australians we interact with has substantially increased,” Mr Wilson said. “We have put a stake in the ground and said we’d like to double the operating profit of this part of the business in the next three years.”

Medibank Health, which has more than 700 clinical staff, runs mental health support and after-hours support services for a list of agencies, including the Australian Defence Force, which has outsourced the management of its healthcare system for its 80,000 active members to Medibank.

“Demand for these services in Australia is soaring, particularly for mental health support,” Mr Wilson said. Medibank said mental health call volumes had more than doubled in the past five years. During the Christmas and New Year period, Medibank’s mental health and human services team assisted more than 5700 Australians through Beyond Blue, 1800respect and the NSW Mental Health Access Line.

Statistics from the health insurance giant also show that since August last year, the number of calls answered by domestic violence and sexual assault support service 1800respect had increased by 410 per cent.

Mr Wilson said the support services business was also important commercially because it was a diversification away from simply being known as a health insurer. “It’s going to be an important part of our future and is one of our three or four strategic goals for the business over the next few years,” he said.

“Our view is that the future of health insurance in Australia is going to be tied up with providing more affordable, better value healthcare, so simply paying somebody’s healthcare bill we don’t believe is the way of the future.

“We are going to need to add more value to that and also to make sure the services people get are tailored to them.

‘‘That is going to be a critical path for the industry and is something we want to lead.”

This piece was first seen on ‘The Australian’ February 27, 2017.


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