Case study: A new role for healthcare brokers

01 April 2011 Anton Rijnen, Medihelp

The new strategic role of healthcare brokers in growing the membership bases of medical schemes is clearly illustrated in this case study of Medihelp’s overall growth strategy, which includes a broker strategy and the repositioning of its product range.

Brokers and other intermediaries have become indispensible in the insurance industry as a whole, and are playing an important role in specifically the healthcare environment. “As such, brokers have become important stakeholders for medical schemes and are included in their strategic planning for growing their membership bases,” explains Anton Rijnen, CEO of Medihelp, South Africa’s third largest open medical scheme.

“Obviously there are many factors relating to the growth of a scheme, but brokers and their relation to the scheme is certainly one of the most important. For this reason, Medihelp has been actively involved in shaping an environment in which brokers can flourish and, in so doing, help the scheme to achieve its growth targets,” says Rijnen.

Ongoing training

The medical schemes industry is one of the most regulated industries in the country. Brokers and schemes must comply with a great deal of legislation. Schemes must therefore realise that a well-trained broker, who is up to speed with the latest developments, is an asset to the company.

Rijnen says that regular broker training sessions, such as those offered by Medihelp year-round, as well as event-specific training such as the regulatory examination training sessions through which Medihelp reached 270 brokers across the country earlier this year, are important for both the scheme and the broker. “It instills mutual trust and understanding, which are necessary elements of a good partnership. It also underlines a scheme’s commitment to compliance.”

Access to information

It goes without saying that brokers would not be able to meet their growth targets without quick and easy access to all necessary information. In the information age, a scheme’s website and electronic information systems should be up to date and running smoothly. “To ensure easy and real-time access to information for brokers, Medihelp developed a Broker Centre exclusively for brokers on its website. Once logged-in with their usernames and passwords, brokers have access to an array of tools via the Broker Toolbox,” says Rijnen.

Broker resources

By providing brokers with the right tools, a scheme can ensure superb service to new and existing members. “With this in mind, our Broker Toolbox was designed as a one-stop-shop, establishing a platform from which brokers can give quotations, fill out application forms and archive their information,” comments Rijnen. “The e-application form, designed specifically for the broker, allows a member to apply electronically via the broker. The quotation calendar enables the broker to email a quotation directly to the member from the Medihelp website.”

Despite the obvious time and cost savings that can be achieved through such electronic platforms, it does not replace the role of traditional broker engagement services such as broker consultants, broker support officers and broker administrators. “The key is to synchronise all these support systems to ensure they all work together to make the broker’s life easier,” says Rijnen.

Reassuring results

In 2009, Medihelp increased the number of lives covered by 18% - the highest in the industry. This was followed by a 9% growth rate in 2010, resulting in more than 245 000 lives currently covered.

“These results show that our overall growth strategy, which includes our broker strategy, is paying off,” notes Rijnen. “It underscores the crucial part brokers should play in a medical scheme’s growth plans and points to a new strategic role for healthcare brokers going into the future.”

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