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ASSISTANCE & REPATRIATION REVIEW 2018


of individuals who identify with the LGBTQ community, assistance companies ought to know the laws and regulations outside the US regarding homosexuality,” he told ITIJ, adding that the ability to communicate with the traveller using vehicles other than the telephone – such as Facetime, texting, and so forth – has proven to be most effective. International SOS has been supporting clients for more than 30 years using tele-assistance technologies, Dr Quigley added. “As many of our clients, particularly those in the energy and mining and infrastructure sector, work in remote sites, we have had to develop and implement communication tools to allow us to continue to provide assistance regardless of the location. Whether the client in distress is at sea, in the air or in an unusually located terrestrial site, we have found unique and novel ways to support them using either teleconsultation or telemedicine tools. We have learned to exploit WiFi and satellite technologies to ensure that our clients in distress can always access a medical and/or security provider.”


provider who must be able to deliver medical assessment, and in some cases advice, remotely.”


Technology to the rescue “Our mission has always been the same,” said Florence Jean, Head of Group Health Global Business Line at Europ Assistance in France. “It’s to bring people from distress to relief – anytime, anywhere. How we deliver is based on what we can do. It can be logistical, with a new type of airplane that can accommodate requests that weren’t possible before, it could be professional skills that our doctors acquire, or it could be communication solutions. In the 1960s we were using Telex; today we have chatbots assisting our front-line operations. We can’t stand still.”


Te personal use clients make of technology, she told ITIJ, drives their expectations of what service providers can do. “We see it as an absolute good: it can better cover our clients who use it; it reduces our internal and external costs; and it improves our performance and quality of service. Today, telemedicine is developing thanks to new tech and is definitely a practice that Europ Assistance is considering for even remote travellers. An example of how we have embedded technology in assistance is a 24/7 medical chat service that has been set up from Spain. A patient can at any time ask a question via chat and one of our 10 dedicated doctors will answer immediately. Te patient can also send a picture in case of a dermatological issue or injury. Doctors are general practitioners, but they are specialists


34 | International Travel & Health Insurance Journal


such as paediatricians, gynaecologists, psychologists, and so forth. It puts our clients in touch – anytime, anywhere – with a medical doctor talking his or her native language.” Despite the instability of today’s world, said Dr Robert Quigley, Senior Vice-President and Regional Medical Director, International SOS and MedAire, business travel continues to increase, and the profile of the business traveller is transitioning – albeit slowly – to the millennial generation. “Assistance companies, in an effort to remain supportive, have had to enhance their service offerings," he told ITIJ. "Such enhancement includes, but isn’t limited to, the provision of 24/7 behavioural health support. A robust communication platform that accommodates the standard tools used by millennials can certainly


encourage such care. We provide 24/7 teleconferencing and teleconsultations that give emotional support on issues such as substance abuse and


lifestyle changes while travelling internationally. And since mobile workforces have a significant number


Providers are being asked to respond in locations that really test this traditional model


Partner networks Sam Tester, Case Co-ordinator at Homeland International, a provider of funeral repatriation services to and from the UK, sees many assistance companies preparing themselves for changing trends and needs. “We see media teams and tourist groups with specific interests travelling to remote locations and, as ITIJ reported recently, adventure seekers spending time in high-risk areas such as favelas in Brazil. Some of the world’s most interesting places are classed as remote, and as


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