Some jobs are more dangerous than others. At the height of the COVID-19 global pandemic, millions of health workers around the world suddenly found themselves thrust into the battlefront, scrambling for precious resources to save lives while grappling to gather their wits.

While the mention of “frontliners” trains the attention to those who provide medical care to patients such as nurses and doctors, there are also frontline heroes who come to the aid of those in need of access to affordable healthcare like the people of InLife Health Care (IHC). These are their inspiring stories.

During the coronavirus outbreak, some workers across multiple industries became essential parts of the machine that keeps the world in motion, putting their lives on the line to help others. These are the frontliners, and I am proud to be one of them.

At first, our fear kept us from doing our job as frontliners. It felt like we were soldiers marching into war without guns. But we realized that the world needs us in order to move forward and overcome COVID-19, so we held on to our faith and did our duties.

It was, and still is, a challenging time. The pandemic has increased everyone’s anxiety and stress levels, so frontliners were not only facing physical health risks, but mentally as well. As frontliners, we need the mental fortitude to keep serving the public.

Thankfully, IHC supported us, especially during the worst waves of the disease. It rendered consistent and clear communications about health risks, preventive measures, and available resources to support its employees.

These helped ease our anxieties and reminded us to take care of our well-being during this health crisis.

When it comes to reaching out to clients, they have indeed become more demanding during the pandemic. Everyone wants to be virtually connected. So apart from phones, emails, Viber, and SMS, we have adopted new digital communication technologies, such as the user-friendly mobile app that makes it easy for our customers to reach us.

The pandemic taught me to be more patient and understanding towards our customers. We don’t know how much pain and loss they suffered because of COVID-19. It’s our job as healthcare frontliners to make them feel that we care for them.

Handling the Direct Sales and Affinity business of InLife Health Care, I saw firsthand the unique challenges the pandemic brought to our sales teams. This large-scale disruption forced us to revisit how we traditionally conduct our sales activities.

We had to quickly shift to virtual selling since in-visits were put on hold. This came with a challenge of its own as many businesses at the time were still going digital. Prospecting activities were also yielding lower results. We had to ensure the quality of client interactions so we can make the most of every sales opportunity.

Another hurdle was the change in our clients’ and prospects’ purchasing behavior. The pandemic brought financial constraints that caused a change in business priorities. Businesses became more concerned with how they can keep their operations running, which meant they were cutting costs on employee benefits.

Our main focus was how to thrive in the digital-selling environment and successfully navigate the uncertainties that came with it. Our transition to the virtual sales space was seamless since the management was quick to provide the necessary digital tools and trainings we needed to sustain our quality of service. We also recalibrated our processes to accommodate the business conditions of the new normal.

We still maintained the usual means of business communication, such as email and phone call, to cater to those who haven’t gone digital yet. It’s important to serve all market segments.

In terms of addressing changing client priorities and purchasing behavior, the IHC management ensured that we had the right products and services to meet the needs of the client. Existing products were revamped and new products were launched to fit client demands in the new normal.

Since I am managing a unit, I had to fine-tune my management strategies to effectively lead my team remotely. The most important skill I had to develop during the pandemic was building strong client relationships in a virtual setting. As any salesperson would know, trust is the single most important factor in closing a sale. However, earning a client’s trust without face-to-face interaction can be quite challenging, which is why I really had to invest in my upskilling to be able to adapt to this new business environment.

When the pandemic happened, our team had to shift to doing everything virtually. This was a challenge because it’s hard to communicate empathy and compassion digitally. Maintaining the warmth of the “Kalingang Insular” is difficult when you’re only talking to patients over a call, Viber, or worse, via email.

We also had difficulty collecting patient details for evaluation due to the Data Privacy Act. Hospital frontliners — nurses and doctors — were also overwhelmed with the number of patients they were taking care of. They can’t immediately send the data we need because of their long shifts and busy schedules.

Remote communication was a problem as well as some hospitals were not equipped for online coordination. This caused delays in their document submissions, such as statement of account, bills, and medical documents. This, in turn, affected our compliance with turnaround times.

With the lockdowns and some hospital staff coming down with the virus as well, hospital employees' duty hours are limited, unlike during pre-pandemic when most hospitals had 24-hour billing personnel. This meant we had to discharge patients up to a certain period only, or else they’ll be discharged the next day. If they were discharged the next day, that’s an additional expense for them, so we really tried to avoid it.

Thankfully, IHC provided us with all the necessary virtual interaction platforms to facilitate easier coordination between patients and hospitals. IHC also held regular virtual townhalls and celebrations like anniversaries and Christmas parties for employees, which we appreciated because staying connected helped with our mental health.

All these difficulties taught me to be more patient and more creative in terms of communication. I learned how to be more understanding and how to show compassion via virtual means to continue providing the service my clients expect from me.

As part of the E-Commerce and Digital Marketing Department, my team and I were already used to performing our tasks and dealing with our clients, both internal and external, digitally. So, our learning curve to adapting to the new normal was much shorter compared to others. For this reason, we were tasked to support other departments that were not as prepared as we were.

There was a surge of requests for digital assets from other teams. We had to be extra careful with our communication to make them accurate and relevant to what the times call for and what our audiences needed.

There was also more pressure for the online store to perform better since people now do most of their shopping online. We had to take advantage of the spike in people’s interest in health. Our website needs to be easily searchable online so people can find us when they make health-related queries.

So, we fortified our store’s capacity and processes to cater more efficiently to the sudden influx of clients.

We noticed that our clients’ level of engagement increased when they inquire about our products. It was understandable, since they want to know the various healthcare plans we offer and choose one that provides the protection they need.

Seeing the role I play for both internal and external clients, I realize how important it is to be of assistance to anyone in need, especially in a crisis like this. Everyone’s struggling, so if you can lend a helping hand, then you shouldn’t hesitate to do so. In dark times, people who help become the light we need.

Staying Attuned to Emerging Needs

If InLife Health Care’s (IHC) performance were to serve as a barometer, you’ll get a sense of the heightened public awareness and appreciation for the role health maintenance organizations (HMOs) play during the COVID-19 global pandemic.

Amidst the lingering uncertainty in its operating environment, the InLife subsidiary breached the Php1-billion mark in membership fee revenue for 2021, 35% more than the previous year’s, and significantly higher than the HMO Industry’s revenue growth of 1.9% for the same period. This stellar performance resulted to a Net Income of P105M.

These numbers are the fruits of years of hard work that started to accelerate four years ago, in 2018, when the Company decided to embark on a digital transformation journey. This led to the modernization of its core system and the buildout of stable and reliable digital channels that improved its delivery of healthcare service to its covered members.

...InLife subsidiary breached the Php1-billion mark in membership fee revenue for 2021, 35% more than the previous year’s, and significantly higher than the HMO Industry’s revenue growth of 1.9% for the same period.

IHC's early digital pivot enabled its covered members to access its wide network of customer service channels, including its telehealth service, call center, and payment portal. The Company ensures the consistent quality of service it provides by tracking its performance on a Customer Experience Dashboard. Thus, its digital capabilities became a key enabler of resiliency for the Company during the pandemic.

The HMO also stepped up its game by launching more innovative health solutions that fit every pocket size.

For the mass market, IHC offers four types of prepaid health plans, depending on the age of the customer and the desired benefit limit. In 2021, it launched two microhealth plans — the ERCare Fit and ERCare Choice — which are one-time use health care vouchers that afford members the freedom and flexibility to choose their type of coverage and benefit limit. Customers can buy these products on IHC’s online store and receive the health e-voucher via email.

On the other end of the economic strata are affluent individuals who also needed health protection. For this market segment, IHC offers Privilege Care, which offers the industry’s highest benefit limit of up to P5 million for inpatient care services and a fixed annual benefit limit of P100,000 for outpatient care services. Privilege Care also puts a spotlight on personal health care and convenience by incorporating diagnostic home services and a direct line to Lifeline 16-911 in case of emergency.

In addition to these new product offerings, IHC also enhanced its InHealth Biz that offers comprehensive coverage for micro and small enterprises, which is the sector hardest hit by the pandemic. Business owners are empowered to design their employees’ benefit plans according to their needs and budget. There are 36 possible variants of InHealth Biz, depending on the preferences of the small business owners.

To make its health solutions more accessible, IHC continued to grow its network of partners to 1,465 accredited hospitals and clinics and 44,058 doctors and dentists in 2021. It also forged partnerships with four Parkway hospitals in Singapore, including Mount Elizabeth, Mount Elizabeth Novena, Gleneagles, and Parkway and with e-commerce giant Lazada and e-wallet player GCash. To improve the digital experience of customers, IHC also partnered with Medgate and My Pocket Doctor for telehealth services, with Aspire Lifestyles for access to concierge and other services, and with the country’s two biggest card issuers (BDO and BPI) to allow customers to pay at zero-interest installment.

IHC also expects more members and customers to benefit from the significant investment parent firm InLife has made in Maria Health, the only health insurance marketplace in the Philippines and a rising technology company.

These initiatives are a concrete manifestation of IHC’s commitment to be there for every Filipino, in good or in bad times.