Employee engagement scale-up Perkbox has expanded into healthcare with the launch of Perkbox Medical, a product that combines cheap health insurance with online GP consultations.

The London-based company offers small and medium-sized enterprises a subscription-based platform that they can use to provide staff with perks, public recognition and surveys. Adding healthcare to the portfolio expands the service into covering financial, emotional and physical wellbeing.

© Perkbox
© Perkbox

Private health insurance premiums in the UK currently cost an average of £1,435 per year, according to research by ActiveQuote. Perkbox CEO Saurav Chopra told Techworld that his company can reduce that to £180-£360 per year by cutting complex conditions out of the coverage and focusing on healthcare essentials such as counselling, physiotherapy and X-rays.

"A lot of the traditional incumbent insurers have very high pricing because they get into some very complicated treatments which are really better covered under the NHS - things like cancer treatments and so on and so forth," says Chopra.

"Those very complex and sophisticated treatments that really only affect a minority of the population are not covered through our low-cost insurance product, while the bulk of the diagnostics where the needs are are covered. That's how we've managed to come up with the price."

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Chopra believes that Perkbox is well positioned to challenge the insurance giants as the company already has a customer base of more than 7,000 SMEs to whom it can offer the new product. This allows them to offer an alternative to the established business model in the sector.

"Remember, the incumbents have no interest in coming up with a very low-cost insurance solution," he says. "It doesn't serve their purpose. When you can charge someone £1,400 per year, why would you come up with something that costs £180 a year, or £300 a year? There's no incentive for them."

GP consultations

The other element of Perkbox Medical is a more common service: online GP consultations. 

Chopra argues that Perkbox stands out from the likes of Babylon and Push Doctor because the company's ready customer base allows it to charge a lower cost and offer an unlimited number of appointments for the subscription fee.

"In our case, we're not a direct-to-consumer product. We'll never be," he says. "For us it's all about the employers and employees, that employee experience, and helping employers help employees live better."

Perkbox recruits the doctors through a partnership with digital healthcare company Doctor Care Anywhere, which selects GPs from the NHS.

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Through the standalone Perkbox Medical app, users can access consultations with the doctors, book appointments, order prescriptions and review their medical histories.

Chopra says that the intention is to work with the NHS in the areas where it excels, and fast-track patients through the areas where it's most challenged.

"Most of the stuff that people go to their GPs for is the primary care stuff: getting an appointment, getting a prescription, getting a referral. "These guys can sort that out, so we're really taking away the burden from the NHS as well. We hope by having 7,000 companies if we manage to get all our customers on board, we're going to really really help the NHS as well as help the companies."

In the first quarter of 2019, he plans to integrate the new app into the core Perkbox platform that contains the company's other products.

His other current focus is on improving the existing products and continuing an international expansion that he hopes will eventually include Perkbox Medical.

"There are some regulatory challenges we need to be aware of," Chopra admits. "Certain markets are going to be very hard, like the US, which in the near term is not going to happen. But other markets we're looking at implementing the same model where the regulatory complexity is not as bad as in the US."