Selecting Occupational Therapy Service Providers by South African Life Assurers

Patton, Heather Jane
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Little is known about the purchasing behaviour of Life Assurers for Functional Capacity Evaluations (FCE) in South Africa. It is therefore necessary to understand the factors that influence their buying behaviour so that occupational therapy (OT) service providers can better align their service offering and marketing efforts. Objective: The aim of the research is to identify the factors that influence the selection of OT service providers, by South African Life Assurers, when purchasing FCE services. Methods: The research methodology was qualitative. In-depth semi-structured interviews were conducted with 26 claims assessors, 1 case manager and 1 claim manager across 6 major Life Assurers in South Africa. An industry expert was also interviewed to ensure triangulation/external validity of results. Content analysis formed the primary method of data analysis. Findings: Consistent with other studies this work shows that preferred FCE service providers are those that exhibit superior service quality. Favoured qualities include good reputation and evidence of credibility within the industry as well as the quality of the FCE report. Findings are also consistent with literature that highlights the influence of a professional working relationship in the selection of service providers. In times of uncertainty, South African (SA) Life Assurers are shown to follow their foreign counterparts and use word of mouth recommendation to select an appropriate service provider. There is evidence to support all three of the research propositions suggesting that factors influencing a Life Assurer’s choice of FCE provider pertain to service quality, word of mouth and interpersonal relationships. Conclusions and recommendations: SA Life Assurers are similar to their foreign counterparts when selecting an FCE service provider and, by and large, demonstrate similar buying behaviour to that documented in literature pertaining to industrial and services marketing. The study however also identified factors unique to the South African context. The research represents a benchmark for the selection process adopted by Life Assurers in South Africa and provides OTs with insight on how best to align their service offering and marketing efforts with the purchasing behaviour of Life assurers
Life assurers, South Africa, Occupational therapy providers