Money Moves

Insurance giant promotes healthy lifestyles

By Charles Mak

This is a fortnightly series of articles focusing on the banking and financial industries

Dr Lu Duosai, medical consultant, assistant general manager, case management and underwriting, BUPA (Asia) Limited
Photo: Nolly Leung

The outbreak of SARS in 2003 had a profound impact on Hong Kong and this continues to be seen in the changes affecting the insurance industry. Public awareness of the need for personal health care has never been greater, meaning that the demand for health-related insurance products has soared. Compared with other developed markets, the penetration rate in Hong Kong is relatively low at about 50 per cent, and average annual growth of 4 to 6 per cent is forecast. Therefore, key industry players are looking to take advantage of this by introducing new products that provide the public with better health protection and medical coverage.

Having already launched its comprehensive "BUPA Crystal" scheme a year ago, BUPA (Asia) Limited is now offering clients something extra in the form of a new "total health management" strategy.

"We see a shift from just protection to protection plus prevention," says Lu Duosai, the company's medical consultant and assistant general manager of case management and underwriting. "Our innovative schemes offer a wide range of preventive care options for varying profiles, age and genders. This new concept of total health management will also improve the quality of services and help us maintain our leading position as a 'superbrand' in the medical insurance field."

Besides offering a unique guaranteed renewal scheme and lifelong cover, BUPA is also implementing an array of health and fitness education programmes plus an extensive network of approved medical service providers. "The insurance industry is used to working closely with private hospitals," explains Dr Lu. "On top of that, we started partnerships with physiotherapy centres last year. The number is now at 77 and we expect that to grow in the future."

Dr Lu believes there is room for the industry to expand and explore new areas, but is well aware that competition for new business will remain tough. Therefore, the sales force, known by BUPA as health management consultants, receives continuous training. A medical team has also been employed to strengthen the company's health consulting services. "Our staff receive training in medical knowledge so that they can offer customers a level of service that exceeds expectations," he says. "We also have a number of different channels for obtaining detailed information about health."

For that, an online platform and a quarterly newsletter were introduced. These offer clients news and tips about healthy lifestyles and information on membership privileges. "We believe success should be shared between the company and our customers," Dr Lu says. "To do that, we need to find ways to keep them up to date, since the better informed they are, the better we can serve their needs. That is how a win-win situation is created."

BUPA's new contracts in 2004 increased by 20 per cent compared to the previous year. With their current focus on developing personalised products and services, a quality assurance programme has also been launched to ensure total customer satisfaction. "Our customer retention rate exceeds 90 per cent and an even higher percentage of customers rates BUPA good or excellent. We do not just talk about quality service, we provide it," Dr Lu notes.

Taken from Career Times 22 April 2005, p. 18
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