ask their assistance company to provide them with pre-travel counselling. A travel-tracking tool (such as our TravelTracker) should be, at a minimum, part of an organisation’s duty of care, regardless of the sector or location. If used properly, companies can be aware of the location of their entire mobile workforce, which is particularly important at the time of a crisis. Accessibility is crucial: the person, no matter where they are in the world, needs to know they can access their assistance provider 24/7 for support.” As travel to remote areas grows, said CEGA’s Dr Gordon, business travellers in particular are requesting proactive risk management and integrated security services from their assistance providers. “Pre-deployment reports, for example, can highlight potential medical and security hazards, establish access to suitable hospitals and anticipate obstacles in advance, so that no time is lost in reaching the very best medical and security care in an emergency," he said. "Technology can also play an important part in mitigating the challenges to assistance in isolated areas, not just by providing access to remote medical advice and telemedicine, but also by enabling travellers to be aware of real-time risks, to request medical or security assistance and to be located via mobile tracking and intelligence apps.” Access to medical care can be accelerated if an assistance provider already has information about a patient, such as their blood group, insurance policy details, passport number and pre-existing medical conditions, Dr Gordon said. Insurers and assistance companies are modifying their traditional offers by integrating risk management services and new technologies. As Steven Burghardt, Executive Vice-President of Business Development (EMEA) and Global Head of Government and Insurance at Europ Assistance, told ITIJ: “Whereas assistance companies were, in the past, mainly

employees and members about health, safety and security risks, and ensuring they are all properly briefed to handle potential incidents.”

responding to incidents, they are extending their focus on prevention by assessing health, safety and security risks, and creating awareness among customers and therefore minimising risks. Pushing location-specific and real-time risk intelligence and alerts to travellers’ mobile devices has become a

In the 1960s we were using Telex; today we have chatbots assisting our front-line operations

standard service in the corporate assistance industry and is offered as an add-on to most business, travel and accident policies. Today’s technology allows us to understand travellers, using the data of travel management companies and GPS systems to create an additional safety net for travellers, especially in remote and high-risk areas. Assistance companies play a key role supporting clients in creating awareness among their

Global and local Global assistance networks need local partners, but they should be recruited with great care, said Denyer at First Assistance. “Local partners remain an important component in the arsenal of an assistance provider,” he said, “but they are not a substitute for an understanding of the local environment and of the capability of the partner concerned. Engaging a partner is almost always possible – there will be someone who is happy to take a case fee – but our experience is that the willingness to take on a case bears little correlation to the ability to assist. An understanding of the capability and network of the partner is key; and engaging a partner who has no capability to assist is inevitably worse than not, as it merely puts a further layer between you and your customer. Very remote cases challenge the traditional model of networks and partner networks, and this is where we have found an investment in medial capability and logistic skills has paid dividends.” Local knowledge and on-the-ground presence is key to delivering assistance everywhere, insisted Eric Barthelemy, Head of Medical and Travel Networks at Europ Assistance. “When our members are in distress, our local agents intervene to support our operations and provide clients with the relief they need,” he told ITIJ, “Can you imagine how stressful and frightening it can be to fall sick during your holidays or on business in a place where your language isn’t spoken and where you don’t know which hospital you should go to get medical attention? Or how lost you can feel if you don’t know where to find a reliable pharmacy that can help you replace your medicine if your luggage has not been delivered? Our agents are our local support to help our members navigate the local reality. Tey provide members with needed services such as picking them up from their hotel, accompanying them to their appointments for language support, and paying for their medicines in local currency. We organise these services almost everywhere around the globe, and thanks to this combination of expertise we ensure our members feel safe, cared for and reassured.” In conclusion, trusted partners are essential to ensuring global reach for assistance services. “An assistance provider,” said Dr Gordon at CEGA, “should have on-the- ground knowledge of the (local) challenges, and contingency plans in place. Tey should also have global networks of transport, medical and security partners so that they can manage a traveller’s care, wherever they are in the world.” ■

38 | International Travel & Health Insurance Journal

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