• Achmea health


    Achmea Health

    Achmea Health is a health insurance company and, with its 20% share of the market, the market leader in the field of health insurance. Achmea Health consists of the Zilveren Kruis, Groene Land, Avéro, PWZ and DVZ and has more than 2.7 million customers in total. Like all other health insurance companies, Achmea has traditionally paid out money to its policyholders to compensate for their healthcare costs and made contracts with healthcare providers. The upper management realised that a health insurance policy is a ‘low interest’ product until a policyholder becomes (seriously) ill. Since—fortunately—the majority of the customers are healthy, the character of the relationship is primarily financial. Customers in that kind of a relationship tend to be less loyal and more sensitive to price. This means that, along with the market’s becoming more transparent, there would also be a stiffer price competition. And indeed this got only worse when the new basic health insurance plan for the Netherlands went into effect in 2006.

    Achmea Health was aware that if they didn’t change tack, they would be facing even stiffer competition. They needed to find a means of adding value and interest. The management developed the following strategy: if we would start working more on prevention and keeping our clients healthy instead of compensating the healthcare costs afterwards, we would move from the ‘low-interest’ into the high-interest range, and we might even end up having to pay less for healthcare costs and bring about considerable savings on top of that. What is more, we would really be doing well if our efforts in that area started producing revenues themselves. But that was not their primary point of departure. Initially, it was about creating distinguishing capability in the upcoming price market.

                Achmea’s new mission was formulated as follows: to help people become aware of the possibilities they have for taking better care of their health.

    The vision that underlies this mission consists of the following points:

    • Health is the most important thing in a person’s life.
    • People are responsible for their healthy behaviour.
    • People usually know too little about health.
    • Prevention is better than cure.

    Achmea offers its policyholders information and expertise via www.achmeahealth.nl, articles through Achmea shops, training programmes and courses through Achmea education, lifestyle workshops, discounts for gyms through the Achmea Health Centres (23 in total), regular health check-ups and health trips and publishes a very readable magazine containing all kinds of interesting things to know about health (for the complete package, see the documentation on the DVD). The Achmea Health Magazine has a circulation of 1.4 million copies with an average reading time of 31 minutes (in 2004), and the website gets more than 350,000 visitors each month. Following the human lifecycle from birth to death, Achmea takes its clients’ health needs as its starting point.

    What does Achmea Health offer its clients?

    First people, then rules.’

    Achmea Health focuses on people’s ‘experience’ and not on the rules of providing healthcare. ‘We basically support each individual in being and staying healthy according to his or her needs. If there are health problems, our focus is on the customer’s needs, and then we do everything we can to help the customer become healthy again or, in the case of chronic illness, to ease his or her suffering however we can. Our strategy helps us be of real service to the customers. A positive memorable experience already has a health-promoting effect. It is a question of empathy, experience and sympathy,’ according to Fred Lingg, former director of Achmea Health.

    Achmea offers a range of services and facilities that provide the customer with expert advice in an accessible manner. And customers can share their problems with each other in an online community. The website www.achmeahealth.nl offers a medical encyclopaedia, complete online references, a diagnostic system, tests, medical news and lifestyle information. The magazine appears six times a year and covers the same topics. The Achmea Health Centres (23 of a targeted 30 have been rolled out so far in three years) offer fitness, physiotherapy, and medical advice relating to sports, weight control and nutrition. Achmea education offers courses on things like how to control your weight, quit smoking, eat healthily and generally feel good. Health trips cover the same themes. The health shop offers the following categories: babies and children, body health check, health and beauty, health travel, comfort, security, ‘feel it’, health knowledge and medical products, measuring and testing.


    What does this mean for the culture of Achmea and the competencies of its employees?

    ‘As an insurance company, Achmea stems from mutual companies that were owned by their members. Service for the members was always of paramount importance. Partly for that reason, Achmea chose the Dutch neologism ‘ontzorgen’ as the pay-off in its communication statements. ‘Ontzorgen’ means ‘to unburden’ and refers to the taking away of cares both in terms of financial burdens (insurance) and material damages (services). Achmea took over the operation of many of the services (occupational health and safety, reintegration, damage repair network, Eurocross alarm centre, and so on). That makes them more capable of introducing distinguishing formulae (the combination of insurance and services) in the selected segments. Naturally they are training their employees in selling services. That is still quite difficult with such a large number of people.[E.P.1] ’

    What does this mean for the internal organisation and the processes within Achmea?

    ‘The service activities are often managed as separate operational units. After all, the internal organisation and processes of insuring people are clearly different from those of providing services. The internal organisation and processes of product development, sales and marketing will need to be set up according to formulae, in other words: combinations of insurance and services.’


    What is the business model with which money is being made?

    Achmea’s objective was primarily strategic in nature and aimed at changing its role with regard to the customer. Based on competitive and ideal considerations, Achmea sought to transform itself from a company that pays out in the event of health problems to one that its customers see as a company that helps people live healthy lives and stay fit. As it turned out, the entire operation was already cost effective in 2003 and by 2004 it had even become profitable.By now the profits are substantial.