International PMI: the technology frontier

“It’s a facility that has been promoted by brokers but evidence would suggest a lot of customers don’t actually use it very much,” says Weigall, who reports that online claims submission should be up and running at InterGlobal this year. “People will only ever want to know what has happened with a claim if it has not been paid. A large amount are paid directly. We make it easy for customers to submit claims to us.”

Information for members

For Jelf’s Dennis, online services for members are a key consideration when choosing a provider.

“One of the questions we have on our fact find for clients is ‘is it a must for you to enable people to get access to documents online and transmit claims online?’” she says. “And 99% of clients are very keen to have online capabilities.”

One insurer heavily focused on such capabilities is Allianz Worldwide Care, which provides all members with immediate access to a membership account where they can access policy documents, change personal details, download, complete and save a claim form, as well as check their claims status.

This has also been a focus for CIGNA, which enables members to upload claims directly to the insurer’s operation centre.

“What we found over the years was that there are plenty of resources online, not least of which the expat forums which are very good sources of information on hospitals so we have focused more on transactional capability,” says Kenton. “Only we can tell you if a claim has been paid.”

Nevertheless, several providers have focused on providing destination information for members. ALC Health’s ALC World provides members with access to a database covering 175 countries with information on doctors and hospitals plus translations of drugs and security information on different regions. This is also available for download on web-enabled mobile phones.

“This has been a tremendous success story,” reports Apps. “We have secured business because of that.”

Other providers are also committed to providing online information for expatriates and their employers. For example, Allianz Worldwide Care provides detailed information on the healthcare systems of 25 countries and Bupa International has a huge range of detailed health factsheets free to download.

Jelf’s Dennis believes this is a worthwhile investment.

“We have lots of corporate companies winning contracts where they know nothing about the area,” she says. “They want information not just about hospitals and doctors but factual information – schooling, finance, banking and information about the country in general. Insurers are starting to work more on factsheets which is a great selling point for them. It’s helping out the HR manager.”

She gives the example of a client sending staff to Belarus where no direct billing agreements were in place. She sees it as the broker’s role to work with the insurer to not only put such agreements in place but to provide employees based in the country with online information about them.

Services for companies

In many cases, iPMI is purchased by companies and insurers are increasingly responding to Dennis’ suggestion that they “help out” HR managers tasked with arranging healthcare cover.

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