Private Healthcare: Wake Up - It's 2020!

As the private healthcare lead at Interim Partners, I was recently fortunate enough to attend the Private Healthcare Summit in Westminster. It was hosted by LaingBuisson, the leading healthcare business intelligence provider for over 30 years. There I met Keith Pollard, the executive chairman of LaingBuisson International, who shared his views on the future of the private healthcare market.

Medical Tourism

The UK private healthcare sector has changed rapidly in recent years – with data and digital at the heart of this transformation. As executive chairman of LaingBuisson, Keith Pollard has an in-depth insight into what’s happening now in the market, and what the future may hold. I caught up with him at the recent Private Healthcare Summit in Westminster.

Denise Raw (DR): How has your career evolved with changes in the sector?

Keith Pollard (KP): I was involved in marketing and managing facilities in private healthcare. This led to providing data and information, both online and offline, to consumers and businesses with an interest in the sector. I was involved in the development of an online portal to inform patient choice and developed a keen interest in the impact of digital technology on the healthcare market and the growth of medical tourism.

Following the acquisition of my business by LaingBuisson, my interests have expanded to embrace the wider social and aged care sector.
DR: What does your role as executive chairman at LaingBuisson International now encompass?
KP: My main role is growing our business and our expertise outside of the UK, to share and apply the knowledge and insight of the traditional LaingBuisson business to the international market.

DR: What difference are you aiming to make to the Private Healthcare Market?

KP: I want to support and encourage patient choice through better information and greater transparency, whilst driving growth of the self-pay market. At the same time, it’s important to continuously encourage providers to improve the private patient experience and think about the extended ‘private patient journey’ rather than just the ‘hospital episode’.

DR: How do you see the private care landscape at the moment?
KP: Not great. Especially in London. The private insurance market is stagnant and NHS belt tightening means less NHS work being sent to the private sector. There has been a decline in the international patient market, particularly from the Gulf.

Self-pay is the one area of optimism. There has been growth in the self-pay market which has increased by 7-7.5% per annum in real terms between 2014 and 2018. But we need to find ways to offer more affordable private treatment to the uninsured/never insured - including the middle market, who could fund treatment if it were more accessible, more consumer-focused and more affordable.

The political situation of course is having an impact as well, although this may have a positive impact for the private healthcare sector. I recently saw some statistics on LinkedIn that highlighted that whilst across England, 5.5% of NHS staff are from the EU, in London that figure doubles to 11.1%.

If Brexit goes ahead it will have a significant impact on the NHS and therefore on the private healthcare sector. It is important for the market to plan for both eventualities.

DR: What role do you think interim managers have to play within private healthcare?  
KP: Parachuting in interim consumer marketers will encourage new thinking. By introducing interims from other business sectors, healthcare providers will open themselves up to new and innovative ideas.

DR: And finally, what advice would you give to private care organisations seeking growth?
KP: Private care organisations need to find a competitive advantage through clear differentiation. BMI, Nuffield, Ramsay, Spire – is there really any difference in which hospital you end up in? Private care organisations need to become more consumer focused and think about the customer experience. By delivering affordable private healthcare they’ll be able to encourage new customers to buy in.

Keith has some very interesting and timely points to make. Ultimately, the private healthcare sector needs to “wake up” to the 21st Century to meet the evolving demands of customers.

I’d welcome your thoughts – if you’d like to discuss any aspect of the private healthcare market, please get in touch.

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