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19 Jun 2024
by Mike Naulls

Employers don’t need to fear the changing medical economy, says Mercer’s Mike Naulls

AI has the potential to transform the healthcare landscape, says Mike Naulls, growth leader and principal at Mercer Marsh Benefits', in his column for REBA's recent report: The shifting medical economy: impact on workplace health

Employers don’t need to fear the changing medical economy, says Mercer’s Mike Naulls.jpg


The importance of health and wellbeing has been brought to the fore by the pandemic, and we are still seeing the lasting effects on the workplace and beyond.

From a socioeconomic perspective, we know there are challenges with the NHS in terms of accessing care. In addition, sickness absence rates in the UK are the highest they’ve been for 20 years.

This conversation remains at the top of the priority list for our clients, who are trying to make better decisions for their employees and work towards better health outcomes now and in the future.

How we access healthcare is changing. There’s a shifting view of who the first port of call should be when it comes to illness. PMI is changing from a complementary service for employees to a more fundamental pillar in keeping the workforce well.

And individuals who are fortunate enough to have access to private healthcare are leaning more on their suppliers, leading to increased costs, increased usage and shifting expectations from employees. This creates a continual circle that feeds into inflation, and therefore raises prices.

But there’s a real potential for artificial intelligence (AI) to change the healthcare landscape and the level of service that employees receive. Data is more accessible, more accurate decisions can be made and there’s an increasing level of knowledge around medical conditions. This could lead to employees taking better-informed preventative measures or being diagnosed at the early stages of a disease.

Question of trust

Health data will become more valuable, but organisations will have to ensure that there is sufficient trust between employer and employee for them to share this data.

The changing medical economy will continue to challenge employers. With wellbeing remaining a key priority for overall business success, forward-looking reward and benefits professionals will be aware of the growing role of the employer when it comes to employee health and wellbeing.

Consultancies can make a true difference, acting as a bridge between our clients and the insurance market. And we can play a really important role in facilitating and encouraging the adoption of propositions that deliver good results for our clients.

We shouldn’t be afraid of medical technology or AI developments. If clients have concerns about what that would look like and the impact for them, then we must help mitigate some of those risks, translating them into a good outcome.


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