Medshield: one of SA’s leading medical schemes

For five decades, Medshield Medical Scheme has remained competitive in the marketplace


For five decades, Medshield Medical Scheme has remained competitive in the marketplace by consistently providing its members with affordable benefits and accessibility to the best healthcare in the country

Setsooto Sihawu, General Manager: Marketing and Communications, discusses what the Medshield brand has come to represent, the celebration of providing 50 years of quality healthcare and future aspirations.

Medshield Medical Scheme celebrates its 50th anniversary this year. Please tell us more about how Medshield has evolved over the years and what the brand is synonymous with today? What have your members come to expect from the Scheme?

Medshield was originally founded in 1968, offering a niche insurance product under the auspices of the Medical Schemes Act of 1967. In 1996, the Scheme was renamed Medshield Medical Scheme, following an amalgamation with Medicare Medical Scheme.Over the years, Medshield has had numerous administrators and is currently a self-administered Scheme. Medshield has always remained a financially stable Scheme with a sound product offering, enforcing the stability of the brand.

Over the years, Medshield has grown into one of the leading medical schemes in South Africa because of its true brand character, which is one of resilience and overcoming challenges whilst continuing to be a dependable healthcare partner to our members. The Scheme has been paying members’ claims consistently for half a century—successfully navigating challenges brought about by the strictly regulated and competitive environment while skillfully managing the rising medical costs experienced throughout the healthcare industry.

It’s not surprising then that we have translated this confidence and certainty into our value proposition, Medical Paid. Our current campaign, Medical Paid, has become synonymous with Medshield, and we will continue building on this confidence for years to come.

You’re celebrating 50 years by renewing your commitment to providing access to affordable, high-quality health cover to your members—tell us more about this. Why is it so important to build, market and maintain a sustainable brand, particularly in your industry?

Medshield celebrates this significant milestone by reiterating its commitment to providing access to affordable healthcare cover to its members, which is what our members have experienced over the years and continue to expect from the Scheme. As a brand, we serve various employer groups in different sectors, and individual members. Through consistent service excellence, compassion for our members and dependability, Medshield has earned the trust of South Africans and, hence, we are one of the oldest and highly-rated medical schemes in the country.

The Medshield brand has always been rooted in strength and confidence but it is only in the last few years that the brand positioning really took shape in the industry. Ongoing brand building, advertising, the demystification of the medical aid space through consumer education campaigns, which also benefited the industry as a whole, and delivering consistent and continuous service excellence to our members have resulted in substantial growth in brand awareness and, in turn, membership.

What would you regard as some of the Scheme’s most notable successes and achievements over the years and what is in store for Medshield in the next half-century?

  • Medshield has literally stood the test of time through remarkable political, environmental, economic and industry changes in South Africa. This is why the Scheme is currently one of the largest and most well-established medical aid schemes in South Africa, because our members are, and always will be, at the centre of everything we do.
  • The Scheme has consistently been financially sustainable, which is a crucial element of a medical scheme, and has maintained a high reserve ratio—much higher than the statutory requirement of 25%.
  • We pride ourselves on receiving an AA- Global Credit rating for 11 consecutive years. This credit rating is testament to our claim-paying ability. We pay claims three times a week.
  • Service excellence through defined processes—Medshield is an ISO9001:2008 accredited medical scheme and conforms to the Quality Management System standards. We continuously monitor and improve performance, provide confidence to existing and potential members and enhance member satisfaction.
  • The Scheme continuously explores innovative technological solutions, which enable us to stay ahead of the curve and streamline our service to our members.
  • We strive to provide members with the best possible access to top quality healthcare through our partnerships with hospital groups and medical practitioners in line with the benefits offered on each of our seven benefit options. Our partnerships afford us the ability to negotiate the best possible rates with healthcare providers to ensure our benefit options remain affordable. Our benefit options are aligned to specific healthcare and lifestyle needs.
  • Our success over the past 50 years is also owed to a number of stakeholders and partners who have contributed to this journey. The Scheme has various stakeholders whose loyalty, support and trust have been unshakeable over the years. We are thankful to the labour unions, the employer groups, the brokers, healthcare professionals, service providers and marketing partners for their unwavering support. Of all these stakeholders, the members of Medshield remain the most important.
  • This journey and the celebration of 50 years of success would not have been possible without the resilience and dedication of the Medshield staff—our ‘shining stars’. The tenacity and commitment of the Medshied staff have been at the core of this successful journey and we are excited to face the next 50 years together.

Talking about Medshield’s future relevance and the next 50 years, the Scheme is excited about the future of healthcare funding in South Africa. The move towards universal healthcare coverage, as outlined in the National Healthcare Insurance Policy Document, seems imminent and as a member of the Board of Healthcare Funders, Medshield will participate in inputs and the rendering of expertise with regard to how the private and public healthcare sectors can work together to achieve universal healthcare coverage. We are looking forward to making access to affordable healthcare a reality for all South Africans, which aligns with our vision of “caring about you towards a healthier nation”.

What are some of the experiences that have shaped the brand and in which ways have your members inspired the brand?

Medshield recognises the importance of brand building and how it influences market share. In recent years, our marketing strategy took a more aggressive approach in terms of increasing brand awareness. Through our strategic marketing partners, we are able to increase our reach, frequency and, ultimately, our market share.

The success of the Medshield brand was initially due to consistent delivery and providing service excellence to our members. By delivering on the healthcare needs of our members, Medshield became known as a dependable and trustworthy brand. By earning members’ trust, Medshield established its position in the industry and started a more aggressive brand-building campaign, which was a contributing factor to the current success of the Scheme.

Please could you tell us more about your career journey—what set you on your current path and ignited your passion?

I am passionate about brands, specifically the Medshield brand. My journey started years ago with my qualification as a Public Relations Practitioner. I worked for various PR and advertising agencies after completing my studies, and the first-hand exposure gained during this period sculpted a better understanding of the marketing and communications space. I held positions at various Medical Scheme Administrators and I also worked for closed medical schemes overseeing their PR and communications. I later worked for an advertising agency to broaden my exposure in the marketing space. Continuous self-development and staying on top of new research and marketing and communication trends worldwide is a non-negotiable point for me. I have recently completed a Strategic Business Management Programme with UCT and continue to self-develop on other aspects of my career.

The development of Medshield’s marketing and communications programmes have significantly contributed towards the achievements of Medshield’s business objectives. My curiosity about what influences consumer buying decisions is what drives me. I don’t believe in luck—persistence and hard work haven’t proved me wrong yet. “I am” because of my family, I am a daughter, wife, mother and sister. When I question tough times, they remind me why I’m here. My sister proved time and again that anything is possible—it’s all about your attitude.

What does your role entail?

As the General Manager: Marketing and Communications and a member of the Executive Committee, I’m responsible for developing strategic goals aligned to the Scheme’s business objectives, specifically membership growth, and overseeing the implementation of the Board-approved strategy within the marketing and communications space. Gaining insights to understand the competitive landscape in which we operate, developing integrated marketing communication plans to influence acquisition and membership retention are also key. Additionally, the marketing and communications space at Medshield is tasked with guarding and growing our brand in the marketplace and to gain and hold consumer confidence within a defined budget.

What is your leadership style and what are the key pillars of your leadership style?

My leadership style is inspired by my values and how I was raised—to respect and treat people in the way I would like to be treated. Having said this, I would describe my leadership style as “participative and engaging”. As a leader, I offer suggestions and guidance to the team and participate in the deliberations. A key pillar of my leadership style is teamwork and trust. My team forms part of the implementation process and the more inclusive and engaged they are, the more successful we will be. I lead from the front, make the final decisions and take accountability accordingly. 

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