We talked to Miguel Anton of Elma on how to make health insurance digital, personal and easy and this is what he had to say.
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Miguel Anton: It has been difficult for all of us, but luckily we are all well both at the office and at home. We hope the entire Startup.info team and its audience are well too.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded Elma.
Miguel Anton: We are both digital entrepreneurs and have launched companies in different markets, ecosystems and industries in Europe. At a certain point in our careers, we were both looking for new challenges, and healthcare and insurance have been industries in which we were interested. We met researching for new ideas. It is how Elma was born.
How does Elma innovate?
Miguel Anton: Elma was born with the mission of using technology to make healthcare more accessible. At some point, we realized that this could only happen if the payer faces disruption. It felt like a stretch to collaborate with public healthcare providers across Europe, and we had some experience working hand in hand with insurers. The outcome wasn’t great. So we decided to become the insurer and launch a health insurance company that is technologically enabled to put individuals at the centre of the care experience to deliver healthcare benefits to individuals by doing so.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?
Miguel Anton: When the pandemic appeared, we thought we had to do something to help society. Our mission is to make healthcare more accessible. If we cannot deliver in a pandemic, when will we? One of our star products is a telemedicine-like service we offer to employers for their employees as a benefit. We decided to open it up for free to any company that would come to us, as this had 0 friction for us to do. In a few weeks, we served more than 120 companies and 150.000 employees.
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
Miguel Anton: Our first approach was to offer our technology and medical services to the public healthcare system. We learned very quickly that we weren’t technologically ready to serve that level of demand. We needed months of work to have a technology that could work under the public healthcare system specifications. We also realized that we were putting the company under jeopardy if we moved down that path despite wanting to follow our hearts and mission. Saying no was hard because the public healthcare systems needed – and still need – all the help they can get.
Turning to our existing customers and offering our services for free to them and their families, friends, and other companies were the frictionless path to help. We had to do little work to execute on that. The lesson here is that giving first and having social responsibility as a company is not only the right thing to do, but it also makes sense from a business standpoint. In much less time than expected, some asked us to become their providers for the next few years and hire our insurance products.
How do you deal with stress and anxiety?
Miguel Anton: As founders and a team, it’s vital to keep work away from home. Our offices are available for the team to come in batches, so everyone gets to work from the office a day or two every week if they need to. Weekends and evenings are also silent. We make sure that no one is working extra hours and energy levels are high.
At Elma, we have a Mindfulness program for our users. Also, we have psychologists in our medical team to learn to manage stress and consciously deal with emotions.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Miguel Anton: We compete with traditional insurance companies. Big companies with deep pockets, but also slow, not very innovative and with systems that are not well integrated.
Elma’s mission is to place the patient at the centre of the healthcare system, and we believe technology will help us do this. Our current value proposition offers an integrated healthcare service, where digital and presential care interacts seamlessly. In this sense, from Elma’s app, the user can have a first diagnostic impression, referrals to medical tests, treatments or face-to-face consultations with a specialist or hospital centre included in our medical network.
Reputation flies, and we know that delivering empathy when members are looking for healthcare is the name of the game. It builds a virtuous cycle that retains users and brings new members.
Your final thoughts?
Miguel Anton: All the great pandemics of human history have brought massive social change and a period of growth and evolution to humans as a civilization. The XIV century’s bubonic plagues brought the Renaissance. The black plagues of the XVII century brought the Enlightenment epoch. With it, a whole new way of seeing and using science and healthcare, cities’ organization, and even the establishment of new social norms changed European society. The Spanish Flu brought public healthcare as we know it today. If history rimes, after COVID19, we will see another epoch of civil evolution that will bring us together with an optimistic view of the future. We work to be part of the solution.