I was delighted to be invited to talk at the London Business School the other week, about Bupa’s strategy for dental care. I wanted to share more about how we approach this exciting and vital part of healthcare.
Across the world many people know us as a health insurer. Since Bupa was established in 1947, health insurance has always been, and remains, at our core and we now serve some 15.7m insured customers worldwide. Bupa also provides some health services where this complements our position in insurance.
This gives us greater insight into how health systems work and enables us to deliver excellent customer experiences. By doing so, we serve an additional 15m customers globally, mainly through our outpatient clinics, hospitals, and dental centres. The precise mix of services varies by country as this is determined primarily by customer need and by local regulation.
Dental care is an everyday, everybody health need and therefore a large and essential component of the healthcare needs of our customers. Dental care is a strategic growth area for us at Bupa as it enables us to: build relationships with a broader base of customers, create more compelling customer experiences and further deepen our connection with our customers.
It complements our existing dental funding and insurance products in several countries. Dental care also makes tangible Bupa’s purpose of helping people live longer, healthier, happier lives.
Bupa’s involvement in dental care began in Spain in 1999, where we now run a network of more than 130 clinics and 50 franchises. In 2013, we acquired the Dental Corp group of clinics in Australia and in 2017, we acquired Oasis in the UK and Ireland, which added nearly 400 practices onto our existing network. These and further acquisitions since have led to a strong global portfolio of dental clinics.
Across our three largest markets – Australia, Spain, and the UK – 60% of the population visit the dentist at least once a year. There is strong demand for dental clinics due to population growth, aging, increased problems from high-sugar diets, better oral hygiene and the quest for ‘the perfect smile’, leading to a boom in cosmetic dentistry. People are more aware and prepared to spend on their dental healthcare needs.
The evolution of dentistry is also creating an opportunity for the consolidation of what to date has been a very fragmented industry. Dentistry has traditionally been provided by individuals or small groups of dentists working quite independently and providing all dental services to their patients. Changes in clinical practice and evolution of the equipment needed in a modern practice have also increased the cost of setting up an individual practice, which favours consolidation. The dentists and the team around the dentists are absolutely critical to whole experience and outcome for the customers. We believe we can really support them in doing what they want to do, delivering world class dental care.
Globally, we have big ambitions for dental, which includes continued investment in both dental centres and dental funding products and leveraging the strength of Bupa’s clinical standards and brand. We are also establishing a global operating framework for dental, enabling best practice and knowledge sharing. We remain focused on delivering best-in-class services for our dental customers and to ensuring that Bupa is a great place to work and flourish on for colleagues. This also keeps us true to Bupa’s purpose.
The discussion at the London Business School was very engaging as the audience asked questions about organisations’ purposes, how we define where we play (the fit between purpose and capability) and lessons learned. I really enjoyed the event and look forward to more.