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The best medicine

The first half of 2009 has not been the most promising of starts for the British public when it comes to matters both financial or health-related.

The year began, in a similar fashion as 2008 ended, with repercussions of the banking crisis being felt on every level – whether global, industry-specific or personal – and seemingly endless.

Then another crisis hit, this time health-related. Swine flu appeared on the front pages of the newspapers and fears of a possible pandemic served to provide a brief distraction, admittedly no less alarming, from the finance pages.

Together these events have affected confidence on a global scale, not just for those involved but equally for those on the sidelines who are unable to do much more than simply watch events unfold – and here I am referring to the general public, to consumers.

For the financial services and healthcare industries, any dips in consumer confidence are unhelpful. Consumers need stability, protection and certainty and our job is to provide these for those who want and need it.

The customer’s belief that we are there to support them is crucial and we should do this clearly and proactively.

In October 2008, the health insurance industry came up with its own antidote to the general feelings of malaise and lack of confidence impairing the financial services industry, with the launch of the Health Insurance Counter Fraud Group’s (HICFG) websites and database.

These include both a public website and one for member providers, as well as an investigative database which acts as the investigation management tool for the providers involved with the aim of sharing intelligence.

The HICFG was established in 2001 and has since grown to unite 11 PMI providers in a quest to minimise and prevent fraud in the industry, whether it is committed by medical staff, policyholders or brokers.

It continues to demonstrate a proactive approach to the sort of industry-wide engagement that is invaluable to those industries that remain most reliant on consumer confidence.

Automated day-to-day interaction means that the fraud departments of the providers involved are constantly kept up to date with intelligence that could prove crucial for fraud detection within their own businesses.

Only a few years ago, the PMI industry was suffering from accusations of stagnation and lack of innovation. But on the contrary, the progress made by the HICFG last year is another indication of how the health insurance industry is evolving.

It is not just incorporating technological advancements made in the field of medicine or responding to the changing needs of healthcare consumers in today’s society but is also embracing technological advances that help to make industries more efficient and enable them to provide the best service.

The HICFG websites and database are essentially management tools which, rather than creating more work for those who use it, actually makes the way in which they work that much slicker.

It is effective and cohesive for both individual providers and the industry – with 11 providers working together through the HICFG and maintaining strong links with NHS Counter Fraud, the ABI, City of London Police, Healthcare Commission and the GMC.

At a time when consumers really need to be able to trust and rely on the areas of financial services they interact with, it’s a reassuring framework to have.

Shaun Matisonn is CEO of PruHealth

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