Pain points of planning for medical assistance

Ian Robinson, Head of UK Personal Insurance

Medical risk planning is not just a nice to have, it’s critical for business continuity and supporting employees

Medical risks continue to be one of the biggest threats to UK business travellers, with international travel exposing them to anything from broken bones and heart attacks to infectious diseases like malaria.

Companies have a duty of care to safeguard employees’ health when travelling. It is therefore important to fully understand the risks that employees face when they are on an international business assignment – both medical and beyond– and to know what businesses can do to prevent or manage them in the event of an emergency.

Small risks, painful impacts

Medical-related risks remains a top threat, and our research shows that the most common risks faced by business travellers include:

  • Alcohol– Business travel often involves corporate entertainment and client hospitality, which has led to alcohol-related injuries.
  • Pre-existing conditions and physical limits – Employees may have issues such as emphysema, which could be exacerbated by certain climates, or mobility issues that mean they struggle with flights of stairs. Equally, medical conditions such as diabetes and high blood pressure do not conveniently disappear when staff are travelling.
  • Transfers – Many traumas occur during transfers, for instance when travellers are getting on and off a bus, navigating airports or taking trains in unfamiliar locations.
  • Distractions when walking – Plenty of people get injured because they’re distracted when they’re walking. A common issue is looking the wrong way when crossing the road.
  • Eating exotic cuisine– Not fully understanding what they are eating and how it was prepared can cause stomach issues for employees.

These threats might each seem small, but their impacts can be huge, and companies need to be able to provide a range of solutions, including prevention and advice, access to medical care and on-the-ground doctors, and repatriation support.

Case: Fit to fly

We recently helped a 60-year-old British man on a field trip in Chile. He fell four metres into a riverbed and needed to be transported to the nearest hospital by air ambulance.

The patient sustained multiple breakages to his arms and legs. However, the hospital was ill-equipped to deal with such extensive injuries, so he was transferred to another facility.

After arranging direct billing, we called the receiving doctor who said that the patient needed multiple surgeries and at least a week in hospital to aid recovery.

The patient said he wanted to go home for further treatment. We held a phone conference between our in-house team and the treating medical team to decide on the best course of action.

We agreed that medically the patient would be safe to fly home, provided he had a nurse travel with him and his leg was fully elevated throughout the journey.

We contacted the patient’s preferred hospital to arrange a bed and made his transport arrangements once he was signed off as ‘fit to fly’.

We secured ambulance transfers to airports, a private nurse, and ensured he had sufficient leg room by booking extra seats for two short-haul flights that didn’t have business class options.

The patient arrived safely in the UK, where the nurse conducted a handover to the receiving medical team.

Case: It can happen anywhere

In another recent case, a businessman tripped and broke his thigh bone on the way to the airport in Amsterdam.

In severe pain, he was rushed to the nearest hospital where the treating medical team confirmed that he had broken his femur and needed surgery immediately. We arranged a guarantee of payment with the hospital and cancelled his original flight.

Post-procedure, the treating medical team became concerned at a lack of movement in the patient’s leg so we arranged physiotherapy until he could walk on crutches.

Once he was fit to fly, we started making travel arrangements. He was unable to travel alone so we arranged for his son to fly over to act as his non-medical escort. We upgraded their seats to business class for additional comfort and arranged wheelchair access and transfers to airports.

Something as simple as getting to the airport can result in a severe injury for an employee. It is vital that all businesses who sends staff members abroad have a range of solutions at their fingertips, to ensure that the appropriate medical care can be delivered smoothly, and staff can return home safely

Coverage giving peace of mind

Something as simple as getting to the airport can result in a severe injury for an employee. It is vital that all businesses who send staff members abroad have a range of solutions at their fingertips, to ensure that the appropriate medical care can be delivered smoothly, and staff can return home safely.

Working with one insurer who can offer incisive risk advice, medical and security assistance, as well as prevention and mitigation services, will give you peace of mind that the safety and wellbeing of staff on international assignments are covered by your business travel insurance.

It means that when something goes wrong, your employees have the reassurance of dealing with one team, who can arrange everything from doctor’s appointments to repatriation alongside dealing with the claim and arranging payment.

And we can ensure safety and security because we integrate insurance with service, providing an end-to-end solution – from prevention to response, and right through to claims management.

We've got your back

Lifeline Plus - at the forefront of the market

Lifeline Plus protects a business’s people after serious work related injuries and against a host of travel emergencies while they’re away on business. The global cover and services we provide, designed to keep employees informed and as safe as possible, continue to get wider and stronger in order to meet evolving risks.

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This article first appeared in the Strategic Risk People Risk supplement.