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Tuesday, October 26, 2021

Comprehensive health support system – need of the hour for senior citizens in India

With a lot of youngsters staying away from parents due to career reasons, there is a constant sense of concern and stress about their parents’ health. It is therefore crucial and the need of the hour to shift the focus from reactive care to proactive and holistic care.


Updated: July 26, 2021 6:24:34 pm
Health Insurance companies need to take a ‘Health First’ approach to engage with senior citizens and come up with a holistic health support system. (Representative image: Pixabay)

Written by Mayank Bathwal

With the onset of COVID 19, the last one year has changed our perceptions and mindset about health, especially the health and well-being of our near and dear ones. The pandemic has changed the way we look at wellness and has pushed us to strive to be a healthy version of ourselves. The rising medical costs have just added to our woes and pushed us to face the harsh reality of our financial unpreparedness, especially in the face of an unpredictable medical crisis.

The routine pattern of savings and investments have got disrupted, leading to reallocation of funds and reprioritising between current priorities and future disruptions. This disruption in life is playing havoc on people’s mental wellbeing with anxiety and stress levels being at their peak. Travel restrictions imposed have elevated the risk but have also instilled the fear of missing out, especially for those adult children living as a nuclear family away from parents. These adult children never stop worrying about the health and wellbeing of elders in the family. And the geographical distance between most parents and children has increased the worry for most in these Covid times. In general, we have always either depended on the support of full-time house-helps, or neighbours for keeping an eye on our elderly parents. This unfortunate situation in the last one year has made us realise the lack of an existing health care ecosystem or a support system that we can depend on for our parents.

The India Parental Care survey, done by Aditya Birla Health Insurance in 2019, showed that 86 per cent of Indian children feel concerned towards their parents’ well-being and 60 per cent of children shared that their parents do not take adequate effort to keep themselves fit. The survey brought to fore the needs that have emerged from changing lifestyle, modern parent-children relationship and the gap that exists in parental care and the support children require to address their concerns.

This is where the health insurance industry can play a larger role in the lives of their customers and turn themselves into more of a health first insurance company than a sickness insurance company. I believe that by engaging with customers in this manner, we can create a more lasting and meaningful relationship with them. Such engagements will enable a health insurance company to help customers manage their health and be relevant in their day-to-day lives and not just in situations of a health crisis. We can do that by having a much larger coverage range that includes primary care, preventive care, and promotive care, apart from just secondary and tertiary care which is where the traditional focus was.

With a lot of youngsters staying away from parents due to career reasons, there is a constant sense of concern and stress about their parents’ health. It is therefore crucial and the need of the hour to shift the focus from reactive care to proactive and holistic care. Proactive care will provide senior citizens with the essential support system they require in all three phases of their health journey, i.e. when they are healthy, when they are being treated and during recovery. This shift of focus will help the children as well as they will be able to monitor their parent’s health, even when they are not physically with them, and thereby take away a huge stress load.

As an industry, we need to go beyond the conventional mode of ‘reactive care’ and act as an enabler and influencer of ‘proactive care’ for senior citizens. It is imperative to understand the emotional and financial intricacies of senior citizen’s health, hospitalisation and recovery needs that one undergoes during an illness or hospitalization for major treatment.

Based on several insights from our research, there is a need to expand the category with ‘Care Solutions’ but with features like ‘Personal Health Coach’, Nursing at Home’ & ‘Cashless Hospitalization for Home Treatment’, etc., thereby bridging the gap to provide health insurance cover to a section of society who needs it the most. The aim was to empower them against the various unforeseen uncertainties of life.

Health Insurance companies need to take a ‘Health First’ approach to engage with senior citizens and come up with a holistic health support system. The industry needs to serve as an enabler and influencer of health and healthcare choices that customers make, in addition to being a payer of healthcare expenses.

 

The author is CEO at Aditya Birla Health Insurance. Views expressed are that of the author.

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