An expert in the private healthcare market is today warning that delivering affordable private healthcare options will be essential for future growth in the private healthcare sector.
Speaking to mark the publication of the Affordable Private Healthcare Guide this week, Keith Pollard, Managing Editor of Private Healthcare UK and a long-time industry commentator, says the private healthcare sector is faced with similar challenges to the NHS but in some cases may be handling them less effectively.
The Affordable Private Healthcare Guide is an independent guide, published by Intuition Communication, publishers of a raft of industry-leading online publications. The guide, which can be read online helps patients understand the complex nature of the private healthcare market and how they can find the information they need about price and quality to make an informed decision about any medical treatment or cosmetic procedure. The Guide looks at the pros and cons of going private, how to choose a hospital or doctor and how to get a better deal.
Read the Affordable Private Healthcare Guide
Following BUPA’s recent call for a 15% cut in charges in the private healthcare sector, Pollard agrees that the cut is needed and says the sector is facing four major challenges.
“The first major challenge is that of demographics. People are living longer, creating greater demand for healthcare and making more use of private medical insurance. More use means higher premiums but personal and corporate purchasers baulk at the steep increase in premiums, so we’re seeing a fall in the number of people covered by private medical insurance, which is now at its lowest level in 20 years.
“The second challenge is inflation in healthcare costs. New and effective treatments often cost more than existing ones. Thus the ‘cost per case’ often goes up, although new minimally invasive surgical procedures have helped to reduce costs, reducing the length of stay and associated care costs.
“Thirdly, the UK’s private healthcare infrastructure is based on an out of date model. A private hospital built today would be very different to those built in the 1980s, focused around day case surgery as opposed to inpatient beds.
“The final challenge is the service delivery model of private healthcare providers. The insurer ‘v’ consultant battle has been going on for some while. The comments of BUPA’s Damien Marmion are to some extent aimed at the consultant fraternity who want to remain immune to market forces.
“The involvement of consultants in the delivery of private treatment will need to change if private healthcare is to become more affordable. In the NHS, some services are moving to delivery by nurse practitioners (at lower cost), under the guidance of a supervising consultant. “Old school” consultants may see these changes as a major threat to their autonomy, but the newer consultants coming into private practice may be more open minded and view such changes as an opportunity to grow their private practice income quickly.”
Pollard says The Affordable Private Healthcare Guide is needed now more than ever:
“The options for private healthcare are enormous, from the treatments available to the sheer number of hospitals and doctors offering them. While treatment choices should never be based purely on price, it’s essential that patients have an independent guide telling them how to do their research and make the decision that’s right for them – without paying over the odds.”