Beyond business: brokers become social innovators in healthcare

As the landscape of healthcare continues to evolve, brokers find themselves at the crossroads of an industry in flux. In South Africa, where healthcare access remains 
a pressing social issue, digital health platform Unu Health is enabling brokers to become agents of change, and provide healthcare access to the previously 
unserved market.

In South Africa, more than 5.5 million employees are without medical aid.

“This not only places enormous strain on the public healthcare system, but it also impacts significantly on the country’s productivity,” says Neil Kinsley, Unu Health’s Head of Global Distribution and New Business Development.

The country faces significant challenges, with more than two million workers on sick leave and a staggering 85% of the population without access to private healthcare.

Absenteeism rates are more than triple the global average, ranging from 8 to 15 days per working year. This emphasises the critical need for accessible and affordable healthcare solutions to ensure a healthy and productive workforce.

“The traditional employee wellness packages brokers offered their business and corporate clients have not been able to bridge this gap, leaving a significant portion of the workforce unserved. The consequence? Lengthy waits at primary healthcare clinics and lost productivity due to absenteeism for medical appointments,” says Kinsley.

“Firstly, few live close to these clinics and must travel to get to them. In addition, there’s inevitably a long wait to see a nurse or doctor – and then another long wait to collect medication.”

The escalating costs of healthcare in South Africa also cast a shadow over financial stability and individual well-being. With each passing year, medical treatments become increasingly unaffordable, posing a dire threat to accessibility and quality care for all. Recent statistics from Stats SA underscore the urgency of the situation as health inflation surged to 6.5% in September 2023, the highest rate since November 2017.

The gap between the public and private healthcare sectors exacerbates the issue. Staffing shortages plague public healthcare facilities, leading to long queues and procedural delays. These facilities, burdened with a staggering doctor-to-patient ratio of one to 2,457 compared to one to 571 in the private sector, struggle to meet the overwhelming demand.

The advent of digital health platforms such as Unu Health signals a shift towards inclusivity, accessibility and affordability. By integrating affordable medical aid plans into their offerings, brokers can now provide comprehensive employee wellness packages tailored to all income levels.

The World Health Organization’s call for Universal Health Coverage by 2030 is driving the urgency of expanding access to essential health services. By championing inclusive healthcare solutions and harnessing the power of digital platforms, brokers can drive tangible impact, transforming lives and shaping a healthier future for all.

“The advantages of brokers providing digital healthcare extend beyond convenience; digital platforms such as Unu Health encompass affordability, efficiency, and scalability. In addition, the Unu Health platform not only streamlines processes but also enhances the customer experience, empowering brokers to deliver tailored solutions that meet the diverse needs of their clients,” concludes Kinsley.

What Unu offers

All Unu packages offer easy access to primary healthcare via an always-on digital platform. Unu has a national network of more than 7,000 contracted-in doctors, specialists and pharmacies, and offers a range of affordable packages from as little as R165 per person per month.

The Unu services include instant nurse chats, online consultations with network doctors, in-person consultations with network doctors (if referred by an Unu nurse), a range of in-room procedures, acute and over-the-counter (OTC) medication, a monthly health check done using an online face scan, casualty cover, a personal health record and a digital membership card. Then, depending on the selected plan, members can also benefit from chronic medication, specialist visits, pathology, radiology, optometry, dentistry and in-hospital treatment.

For employers, brokers can offer a convenient tool to view, manage and analyse information. Unu’s user-friendly dashboard provides a fully anonymised overview of all employees on Unu, delivering predictive data and meaningful insights to inform human resources strategy, lower absenteeism, improve productivity, and enhance employee benefits to attract and retain staff.