#YoPacienteDigital Interview with María Parrilla, Head of Health Business at Generali Spain

Tell us who you are and your relationship to telemedicine?

I am María Parrilla, the Head of Health business in Generali Spain. Therefore my relationship with telemedicine is obvious: it is a very relevant service for us to provide to our Health insurance customers.

Why did you decide to support the #YopacienteDigital project? How will this study impact your company?

Generali has placed Health Insurance as one of its main strategic priorities for the period 2020-2025. In particular, the company has developed a remarkably ambitious strategic plan with the aim of doubling the volume of premiums in Health Insurance during the next 5 years, gaining global relevance in this line of business within the Spanish market.

To achieve these challenging objectives, Generali has drawn up an action plan that includes relevant actions and initiatives in the main areas of the business: products, medical networks management, claims management and medical care, etc.

One of the areas where Generali will work decisively in the coming years as part of its strategic plan is the evolution of video consultation and the development of a Virtual Medical Chart that will coexist with the physical medical team. This will allow our policyholders to decide the way in which they want to receive the medical care covered by their Health policies.

In this sense, once Generali knew the existence of the #YoPacienteDigital study, it was an immediate decision to support it, given that the objectives of this project are perfectly aligned with the company’s strategy with regard to telemedicine, which is one of the pillars of Generali’s global strategy in Health Insurance. Furthermore, we expect that the results of the #YoPacienteDigital study will have a significant influence on the evolution of telemedicine in the national market, which would act as a lever to accelerate the digital transformation in the Health business, something that, in our opinion, is unstoppable. 

How are you using telemedicine in your company?

We provide our customers with the “24h doctor” service, which is a video consultation service for primary care, accessible on Mi Generali (our customer App). We are providing this service since 2017, when it was not nearly as popular as it is now, which shows our firm belief in the value it can provide to our customers. We work always with leading providers in the telemedicine field. 

Also, during the COVID confinement months, our customers were able to access video consultation services for most medical practices thanks to agreements with some of our medical providers. This has been a positive experience which reinforces our plans to deliver a Virtual Medical Chart.

What is a digital patient for you?

I believe that we can agree that the world is digital now, even more so after the COVID confinement months, which have accelerated and consolidated digitalisation in those areas where it may have been somehow behind. Health was already one of the most innovative and digitalised industries, but there were still barriers related to customer behaviours that had not been overcome before the pandemic outbreak: specifically many patients were reluctant to using telemedicine services, since medical care was positioned strongly as a “face to face” service. This has nonetheless changed dramatically with COVID: telemedicine now is a highly valued service, both by doctors and patients, and those mental barriers have been broken. For us, this is proof that every patient can truly be a digital patient, if the service you provide is relevant to her needs. 

In those areas where you may expect patients to be less digital (e.g. more rural areas and among older population), telemedicine is even more relevant, and we strongly believe that a good solution can prove that every patient can be ready to engage with digital health services, if these are made convenient and accessible. 

During this crisis, we’ve seen that Generali puts emphasis on the mental health of its employees and agents. How do you see the development of telemedicine for Generali?

As previously anticipated, telemedicine is one of the main levers included in the company’s ambitious strategic plan for Health Insurance. 

In fact, the evolution of the medical provision to include new digital capabilities and features has been one of the priorities of Generali for the last years. As an example, already in 2017, we were one of the first companies to launch a video consultation service on their health policies, accessible to digital customers through the App ‘Mi Generali’. Another example is the launch this year of the digital medical card, despite all the difficulties which have arisen due to COVID-19.

Therefore, during the lockdown period, it was quite natural for Generali to develop new initiatives to take care of the mental health of its employees and agents. 

In the coming years Generali will accelerate even more its permanent evolution in telemedicine, putting the focus on new developments and features, as well as broadening the access to these digital services among its customers.

Why is it important for insurance companies to digitize their services? What are the challenges?

In the case of Generali, digitization is deeply enrooted in our strategy of being lifetime partners to our customers, for it enables new experiences and channels through which we can provide an answer and be closer to our customers’ needs -anytime, anyhow, anywhere. 

Undoubtedly, the fast pace of the times and trends, with digital and tech progress allowing new and almost unlimited possibilities every day, disrupts every aspect of society -thus impacting insurers twice, as economic players themselves, but also and mainly as an industry meant to provide solutions to society’s risks and sources of worry. And, of course, to fulfill the latter mission, there is no point in neglecting the new opportunities that arise when digitizing services, processes and interactions. Likewise, digitizing all aspects of the value chain, ensures a productive and efficient operating model to keep delivering to customers.

Therefore, and thanks to going digital, insurance companies enhance experience for their customers by empowering them to decide and tailor how and when to enjoy a service, and by turning flexible and adaptative the ongoing relationship, regarding communications and channels in key moments such as advisory, underwriting and risk assessment, data management, claims handling or even needs-anticipation. 

On top of that, the current situation has underlined this paramount importance of providing digital options and being able to react fast to changing needs and preferences -thus accelerating the digital journey and its strategic relevance.

On the other hand, the main challenges to face and overcome in the digital transformation, and especially in a traditional industry like insurance, are related to getting everyone on board.

First, it is key to have the digital journey supported by the bigger company strategy, for it entails deep corporate-wide changes that need to be aligned with every other aspect of the company, and this can only be achieved with an innovative mindset that is not resistant to adaptation and that embraces rapid change and understands that opportunities become threats when missed out on them. This is the reason why, at Generali, innovation is one of our strategic behaviors, and a strong transformation on culture and ways of working has been supporting and enabling going digital.

Moreover, and externally, it constitutes a challenge to maintain human touch regardless of digitization as well as avoiding widening the digital gap toward customers that are not digital, due to generation or economic or geographical reasons

It is clear that you have a strategic focus on Health is Spain, what about other countries and Generali Group as a whole?

Our current strategic focus is actually coming from alignment with our Group Global strategy, which as I mentioned before is aiming to become a lifetime partner to our customers. With this ambition, Health is necessarily a key business, where you can develop relationships with customers and provide great value beyond pure insurance covers.  As you may know, Generali Group is one of the European market leaders, specifically in Health we have strong businesses in countries like Italy, Germany or France, and strong efforts and investments are being made at a group level on Health digitalisation, innovation and services for customers. We plan to leverage on these developments to achieve our ambitious objectives in terms of business and in terms of customer service.

You are launching a challenge with Innsomnia to look for ehealth startups. Can you tell us more? 

As mentioned before, the strategy of Generali outlines innovation and digital transformation as a key pillar for growth and leveraging on new opportunities. Hence, and to complement our successful intrapreneurial and internal innovation model, our open innovation program pursues disruption by connecting, collaborating and partnering with external talent and other competitive players in the ecosystem to seize on synergies and mutual exchange of insights, capabilities and solutions.

With its relevance enhanced by the impact of the current situation, we could not find a better challenge to tackle together with startup talent than bringing disruption to eHealth.

Particularly, our open call in the eHealth vertical targets players and projects with disruptive value propositions regarding, on the one hand, how Generali interacts with its customers -thus covering differentiative telemedicine as well as novel business models-, including those residing in areas with more limited access to services. On the other hand, and besides the how, the challenge also covers the what, since Generali is also looking to broaden its offering -through new and disruptive products solving unmet customer needs as well as through value-adding services to enhance disease prevention and early diagnosis.

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