Press release -
Discovery announces the latest business innovations within the Discovery Health portfolio
Johannesburg, 1 October 2021: Discovery announced the latest business innovations within the Discovery Health portfolio, at its its annual product-update event with financial advisers on 30 September 2021.
“The golden thread running through the various elements we shared with the financial adviser community and media today, was our focus on personalisation of healthcare through digitally-powered processes,” explains Dr Ryan Noach, CEO of Discovery health.
There is a particular focus on four ground-breaking areas:
Transformation of the Health Payments System
DiscoveryPay has been enhanced to facilitate a cashless and seamless payment journey through the healthcare system. Through smart integration of payments from medical scheme, gap cover policy, credit and savings accounts, every payment in the healthcare system is correctly and seamlessly resolved in a quick simple process.
Innovation within Discovery Health Medical Scheme (DHMS):
- Discovery Hospital at Home – introducing South Africa’s largest “private hospital”
- Discovery Health’s Digital patient communities – bringing people who live with diabetes, heart disease and/or Long COVID together for better health outcomes
Innovation within Vitality Health International
- The extension of Discovery Health’s Insurance business footprint into Africa through Vitality Health International’s new two-tier offering, including Travel for Treatment, and International Health insurance
1. Discovery Hospital at Home – introducing South Africa’s largest “private hospital”
The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the adoption of digital healthcare technologies by patients and healthcare providers. “One example – the use of telemedicine in the USA has seen unprecedented increases in online consultations,” says Dr Noach. “Within our ecosystem, Discovery Connected Care logins have increased more than seven fold, by 763%, since 2019.”
“At the same time, there is a global need to the need to ease the burden on increasingly overwhelmed hospital systems while providing people access to quality, affordable care. These trends have highlighted the importance and relevance of the patient’s own home as a setting for access to and delivery of healthcare,” says Dr Noach.
“Globally there has been a proliferation of hospital at home programmes with increasing evidence to support the treatment of medically appropriate conditions in a patient’s home. Experience has shown that hospital-level care can be delivered safely in a home-setting for a range of clinically appropriate conditions. Every year there are on average 50 000 medical and surgical admissions administered by Discovery Health, which could be safely managed in the patient’s home.”
In 2020, Discovery Health launched Connected Care for acute care at home, which provides qualifying members with clinically appropriate and patient-centric hospital-level care in their homes. Over 2021, multiple DHMS members were successfully treated for COVID-19 in their homes with good clinical outcomes and patient experience feedback.
“We learnt a lot from this experience, and used the insights gained to build capability to deliver hospital-level care for an expanded list of medical and surgical conditions to 750 patients at any point in time, across South Africa in their own homes. From January 2022, DHMS members will have access to Discovery Hospital at Home - hospital-level care delivered safely and effectively in a patient’s home for a number of medical and surgical conditions that would otherwise require an admission to hospital.”
- DHMS members are admitted to Discovery Hospital at Home through a referral by their doctor.
- Once admitted, they access integrated, cutting-edge technology that allows for real-time remote monitoring 24/7 of patient’s vital signs.
- Medical providers continually assess the patient’s health status, monitor their medical stability, track treatment compliance, and recommend interventions when necessary.
- When patient deterioration is detected, actionable notifications enable caregivers to deliver real-time clinical interventions.
“Overall, members are supported by highly personalised care team with skilled clinical staff, clinical protocols and best clinical practices, and appropriate medical scheme benefits,” says Dr Noach. “Together, these benefits and services ensure a seamless healthcare experience for patients. Services are funded from members’ hospital benefits and are subject to pre-authorisations. Patients can always reach a clinician if they have questions or concerns. Family members are kept up to date on the patient’s progress, either during the home visits, or through a virtual consultation. Depending on a patient’s specific needs, consultations with allied healthcare professionals may be incorporated into their personalised care plan.”
Patients access a patient companion app with an easy-to-use interface and customisations that allow patients receive regular reminders, conduct online consultations, and receive their recovery plan over the course of treatment. Qualifying members also have access to transport services, daily meals to cater for specific dietary requirements, discharge planning and care coordination and a 24-hour career for elderly members.
2. Discovery Health’s Digital patient communities for chronic conditions – bringing people who live with diabetes, heart disease and/or Long COVID together for better health outcomes
- Almost 500 000 DHMS members living with either diabetes or a heart disease
Globally, an increasing number of people living with a chronic illness. This is largely driven by an ageing population and unhealthy lifestyles. “Almost 500 000 DHMS members living with either diabetes or a heart disease, and at least 22% of them are diagnosed with both diabetes and heart disease,” says Dr Ryan Noach. “Diabetes continues to be one of the chronic illnesses with the greatest increase in prevalence, and over the past five years there has been a 43% increase in the number of members who have registered for diabetes treatment.”
Unfortunately, these conditions result in serious long-term health problems that are costly to treat. “When a person is diagnosed with a chronic illness, accessing the right information about how best to manage the condition is vital. While people rely on information provided by their doctor about their diagnosis, treatment and therapy options, many people continue to seek out further medical information and emotional support around their chronic illness from others. They access multiple, disparate sources of information through online searches, family and friends, and social media. Without appropriate clinical guidance, managing the information they access can become a significant burden, and even lead to worsening clinical outcomes.”
- DHMS records emergence of Long COVID trends
Following almost 20 months of the COVID-19 pandemic, DHMS has seen the emergence of Long COVID trends, with one in every ten people who contract COVID-19 experiencing symptoms for longer than three weeks following an acute phase of illness. “While Long COVID is not yet fully understood, people across the world who are experiencing long COVID symptoms have reported that they are struggling to manage their symptoms while feeling stigmatised and unsupported.”
Access to a digital community of patients living with the same illness,
Discovery Health has partnered with myHealthTeams - a global leader in delivering highly effective digital patient communities - to provide DHMS members living with diabetes and/or heart disease and those impacted by Long-COVID, with access to a digital community of patients living with the same illness, to help them manage their condition. This, by allowing people who live with the same illness to connect with and learn from each other. This offering takes effect in January 2022.
“Research has shown that when people living with the same chronic illness connect with and learn from each other, ask questions, get referrals, and share tips with other people who personally understand what it’s like to live with that illness, their health outcomes improve,” says Dr Noach. “Digital patient communities enable these connections and come with clinical supervision and moderation that ensures the information provided through the platform is accurate and relevant.”
- DHMS members can access and enrol on any of discovery’s patient communities through the Discovery Connected Care platform on the Discovery corporate app, or the myHealthTeams website.
- The patient communities for diabetes and heart disease become available from 1 January 2022.
- The Long COVID patient community becomes available from 1 February 2022.
In summary, Discovery’s Digital patient communities platform:
- Connects patients living with the same chronic illness to exchange real-world health experiences and stories.
- Brings in active engagement by medical experts to ensure all conversations and patient-to-patient exchanges are clinically moderated.
- Allows access to regular blogs and live Q&A sessions with local and international medical experts.
- Allows patients to access condition-specific curated content, including latest clinical treatments and advances in research.
- Empowers patients, drives adherence to treatment and therapy, and promotes effective self-management
- Discovery’s patient community platforms are available to all DHMS members including family members, friends, or caregivers of those diagnosed with heart disease, diabetes or Long COVID.
- Registration on the Chronic Illness Benefit is not a pre-requisite, and there is no additional cost to the member for use of Discovery’s patient community platforms.
3. Vitality Health International extends Discovery’s footprint into the rest of Africa with launch of “Travel for Treatment” and “International Health Insurance Products”
“We have health insurance operations in China, US, Australia and UK and we are very pleased to announce today our expansion into several African countries outside of our home country of South Africa,” said Dr Jonathan Broomberg, CEO of Vitality Health International, a division within the Discovery Group. “We are today proud to announce our expansion into a number of African countries through Vitality Health International’s two new offerings, namely Travel for Treatment and International Health Insurance, both by Vitality Health International.”
- What has motivated this extension of the Discovery footprint into Africa outside of South Africa?
“The private healthcare system in South Africa ranks among the top healthcare systems in the world for quality,” explained Dr Broomberg. “For Discovery, making the South African private healthcare system more accessible to the rest of Africa is a key focus area.”
“Another key focus point is our work to provide a consistent health insurance experience for companies with Pan-African operations. Through the 19 medical schemes it administers, Discovery Health already provides health insurance in South Africa to many multinational companies. Our research makes it clear that these organisations invest heavily in their employees’ health and wellbeing. However, managing individual employee health plans across multiple countries can be complex.”
“Discovery Health is globally recognised as a leader in shared value health insurance, which delivers greater value to policyholders, superior actuarial dynamics for the insurer, and a healthier society. This platform leverages health analytics, enables digital healthcare, and integrates with Vitality, the world’s leading behavioural science-based wellness programme, now operating in over 30 markets through 150 partners. Discovery will leverage the full capability of this technology to enable its expansion into Africa to meet the needs of local employer clients and their employees who are based in other African countries and act as a single service provider to offers uniform, comprehensive healthcare cover across multiple countries and regions.”
- (a) Travel for Treatment - an end-to-end clinical concierge service for those living in Africa.
Travel for Treatment provides an end-to-end clinical concierge service and facilitates access to healthcare in top medical destinations in Africa and Europe. Dr Broomberg explained, “This product is aimed at people living on our continent who have complex medical conditions where local treatment is inadequate for their needs. At first, we will provide options to travel for treatment in South Africa, the United Kingdom and France - a popular destination for francophone counties on our continent.”
“Our research shows that there is a tremendous need for this service as thousands of people travel from African countries for treatment abroad each year, under their own steam. By combining Discovery’s purchasing power, network reach and data analytics capability we can provide a very powerful and comprehensive form of much-needed assistance to people in situation.”
Travel for Treatment will also include various concierge services required including return flights to country of treatment and travel documents, accommodation before during and after treatment, transport (with a medical escort or air ambulance option) and 24/7 call centre support.
- Travel for Treatment is available from 1 October 2021.
- (b) Pan-African Health Insurance by Vitality Health International, with Vitality - shared-value health insurance to employers in several African countries, enabling comprehensive cover for healthcare for employees, underpinned by incentives and tools to live a healthier life.
From 2022, employers with operations in a number of African countries will be able to offer their employees living and working in Africa access to comprehensive, quality healthcare through Health insurance by Vitality Health International - a comprehensive set of insurance benefits for the full spectrum of employees’ medical, needs through a range of options.
All insurance options are supported by a full suite of leading digital technology, designed to create an intuitive and accessible healthcare system experience, and a seamless service experience for employees’ employers and financial advisers. To incentivise engagement in healthy behaviour, employees will have access to Vitality, the world’s leading behaviour-change programme, designed to make people healthier.
“We have drawn on our extensive experience in the design of this fully digital, innovative health insurance product. It meets the needs of customers in each market, though four plan options” says Dr Broomberg. “Cover will be available from 1 January 2022 and initially only for Nigeria, Ghana, Zambia, Kenya. We aim to expand into a large number of other countries on the continent throughout 2022.”
- · Travel for Treatment and Health Insurance by Vitality Health International are both offered by Vitality Health International in partnership with Medical Services Organisation International (MSOI) (a subsidiary of Discovery Health (Pty) Ltd.). MSOI has 7 offices with 85 fulltime staff members operating across the African continent and is a leading provider of integrated healthcare risk management and third-party administration services and solutions to over a million beneficiaries throughout Africa.
- · Visit www.vitalityhealthinternational.com for more information.
4. Introducing Discovery Pay, the single-payment platform on Discovery Bank for convenient payments across the Discovery network
In 2022, all Discovery Health Medical Scheme members can activate Discovery Pay to seamlessly transact across the healthcare system, integrating payments for medical bills across all sources of funding, including medical scheme benefits, gap cover, savings and credit facilities. Members can also access Pay as you Gym facilities nationwide and pay Discovery Bank clients using just a cellphone number.
- Activation of Discovery Pay is once-off, and activates all features, including payments for healthcare and Pay As You Gym.
- There is no additional cost for activating and using Discovery Pay.
“DiscoveryPay offers seamless integration between DHMS and Discovery Bank enabling a simple and intuitive process for settling medical bills. By linking their digital Discovery Bank service, DHMS clients will transact seamlessly anywhere in the healthcare system, such as instantly settle any outstanding co-payments or medical payments without the hassle of reconciling part payments, across a network of the more than 6 400 general practitioners nationwide,” said Noach. “The Discovery Pay integration also extends to members engaged in Vitality, where they can access to more than 150 Virgin Active or Planet Fitness facilities nationwide on a Pay As You Gym basis, at discounted rates, from as little as R75 per visit, depending on the retail rate of the specific club.”
5. Three months of free Vitality for DHMS members
Vitality is pleased to also extend its “three months offer for free” to members of most medical schemes administered by Discovery Health, including DHMS. Clients can choose to try Vitality or Vitality Active free for three months, enjoying all the benefits of that programme, with the option to cancel at any time within the three-month period.
Discovery Health’s ongoing commitment to affordable, patient-centric healthcare underpinned by the best available digital platform solutions
“All of these innovations and developments are a manifestation of our drive to enhance access to affordable, efficient, on-demand, cutting edge healthcare across the continuum,” concludes Dr Noach.
“The integration of digital technologies is integral to creating platforms and support systems that allow us to focus on patient-centric, ever more personalised pathways.”
Read the full detail around all these innovations and enhancements in the September 2021 Discovery Health Discoverer (PDF).
Discovery Limited is a South African-founded financial services organisation that operates in the healthcare, life assurance, short-term insurance, savings and investment and wellness markets. Since inception in 1992, Discovery has been guided by a clear core purpose – to make people healthier and to enhance and protect their lives. This has manifested in its globally recognised Vitality Shared-Value insurance model, active in 27 markets with over 20 million members. The model is exported and scaled through the Global Vitality Network, an alliance of some of the largest insurers across key markets including AIA (Asia), Ping An (China), Generali (Europe), Sumitomo (Japan), John Hancock (US), Manulife (Canada) and Vitality Life & Health (UK, wholly owned). Discovery trades on the Johannesburg Securities Exchange as DSY.
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