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iPMI Magazine Speaks With Angela Smith, Head Of Proposition Development, Charles Taylor Assistance

Why is innovation so important to the health of the international assistance sector? As the Covid-19 pandemic shines a spotlight on global medical assistance, we ask Angela Smith, head of proposition development for Charles Taylor Assistance, to answer some key questions about the role of innovation in the sector

What’s driving innovation in global medical assistance?

The Covid-19 pandemic has accelerated demand from travellers for easy access to information and advice about real-time health and security risks abroad; covering everything from Covid-related travel restrictions to terrorist attacks.

Customers overseas want to know that a skilled assistance specialist will be available when they need them, that relevant information will be obtained quickly and efficiently and that queries about policies and claims validations will be settled speedily. In this context, they want to know that digitisation will ease their pre-and post-claims journeys and accelerate settlements where appropriate.

All this is putting the onus on assistance providers to create more bespoke solutions for insurer clients and their customers than ever.  In today’s climate, providers are expected to work with clients not just to establish their bespoke needs but also to offer the flexibility that enables them to choose the level at which they manage new products themselves, such as claims data dashboards and automated alerts.

In its Travel Megatrends 2025 report, the travel news site Skift reported that brands that embrace agility and flexibility will be equipped for the future of travel. And this couldn’t be more accurate.

What role does digitisation play?  

According to McKinsey’s Digital Patient Survey, more than 75% of all patients expect to use digital services in the future. And digitisation is already transforming both the medical claims journey and the travel risk mitigation landscape.

Seamless and fluid assistance is being driven by tools such as digital doctor, which integrates video doctor and advanced diagnostic services into the medical assistance process. Meanwhile, wider ways of enabling customers abroad to reach out for help and to improve information and assistance delivery are also being explored by the assistance sector, for instance via telemedicine and AI.

At the same time, reliance on mobile technology has driven services such as digital claims, single-source medical and security assistance, risk management alerts and automated medical screening. Other automated processes, such as bespoke telephony technology,  multi-currency payment technology, digital document signing and workflow management aids are also integral to the global assistance sector. And automation is easing processes with assistance suppliers and customers alike.  

But this provision needs to be constantly developed to drive further efficiencies in claims handling, supplier management, global network integration, cost containment, information gathering and more.

Why does innovation need to be a balancing act?

Recent digital developments here at Charles Taylor include Venture: a digital health risk assessment tool that helps corporates manage duty of care obligations for back-to-work and back-to-travel scenarios during the pandemic. Importantly, clients can choose the aspects of this process that they want to manage.

We’re also using digitisation to contain costs and create efficiencies via Discovery, our new court-compliant social media and open-source digital investigation tool for the fraud investigation arena. This uses algorithms to search over 220 open source and social media sites for impactful intelligence about claims and sets off referral alerts to professional investigators.

We recognise that technology is essential to capture important data and ease processes, but it will always need to be complemented by in-house human expertise. Niche skills, supported by innovative training are essential to ensure that assistance cases are managed effectively, interventions are made at the right time and customers’ individual needs are met, especially when they feel vulnerable. After all, every customer is different.

Skills management and maintenance, together with efficient knowledge transfer are critical in this respect and the frequency of training is as important as the methods.

How can we future-proof the assistance sector?

Today, looking beyond Covid, the assistance sector needs to prepare not just for current risks, such as pandemics and terrorism, but also for the lesser known impact of issues such as climate change. We need to ask ourselves, for instance, if climate change will drive travellers away from traditional tourist destinations, disrupting not just where, but when they go abroad and how they get there? Or if increasingly unpredictable weather patterns will create more emergencies overseas - and if we need to adapt assistance provision to mitigate this?

Cutting-edge technology, flexibility, human expertise and collaboration will, together, be key to effective innovation in this respect.  So too will investment in research and development.  And we need to bear this in mind as we forge ahead in today’s ever-changing travel landscape.

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iPMI Magazine Speaks With Janette Hiscock, CEO of Global Solutions Europe, UnitedHealthcare Global

In this exclusive iPMI Magazine interview, Christopher Knight, CEO, iPMI Magazine, met with Janette Hiscock, CEO of Global Solutions Europe, UnitedHealthcare Global. They discussed in detail the COVID-19 global pandemic and how UnitedHealthcare Global has managed the public healthcare crisis, internally and externally. 

COVID-19 has had a huge impact on the healthcare industry. How has your organisation managed?

As a leading global healthcare company, we have been impacted like everyone else. We’ve been able to help support our employees, our customers, and communities around the world to aid the global fight against this disease. 

Since the outbreak, we’ve had to work quickly to make sure that we’re doing everything possible to continue treating patients and supporting our members. In the U.S., UnitedHealth Group has worked to develop accurate tests which aren’t as invasive as those which have been used more widely. These tests were made available to patients with a doctor’s order at hospitals, clinics and testing facilities across the U.S. We’ve also completed a *study with the Yale School of Medicine that suggests older COVID-19 patients with hypertension, who were taking angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors, may have a lower risk of COVID-19 hospitalisation. A clinical trial will follow as a next step.1 The study is still under peer review.2

At UnitedHealthcare Global specifically, we have waived member cost sharing, including copayments and deductibles, for COVID-19 diagnostic testing provided this is medically necessary and is carried out at an approved location and in accordance with applicable governmental or public health advice.

This was made available on top of existing access to Virtual Visits, our telehealth solution, our Optum Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) and our unique health management programme. All these features continue to be a source of significant support for our members during this unprecedented time..

More widely, we looked to help other businesses in need across the world. For example, in the UK, our Medical Services team has been globally supplying vital PPE to protect healthcare workers across other essential businesses around the world.

Not only have we supported the scientific and clinical aspect of COVID-19 but since April we’ve committed over $60 million, via the UnitedHealth Foundation, to support homelessness, food insecurities and the health and safety of the frontline workforce. This funding has been used across the U.S. and other regions including, Brazil, Chile, Columbia, India, Ireland, Peru, the Philippines and Portugal.  It’s been a real privilege to be part of an organisation working actively to address the virus and its effects and serve the needs of our members and customers. We are fortunate that as a global organisation we’re skilled at working seamlessly across countries, time zones and home offices. As the pandemic evolves, I’m confident that we’ll continue to adapt and support our customers effectively, with a focus on compassion, relationships and performance. 

How has your role changed during the pandemic and what are your priorities for your own people?

This year has been challenging in so many ways, both personal and professional. However, it has shown me the importance of understanding our markets and the people we serve. We must offer comprehensive, yet affordable solutions to meet their changing needs. I’ve been working closely with my team to navigate our response to the changing healthcare landscape, and I am confident we have delivered a high standard of support and care throughout this time. 

A crucial aspect of my role this year has been to find the best route to minimise the impact of the pandemic on the business, both in terms of our continued growth and, more importantly, on our employees. The safety and wellbeing of our employees is my absolute priority and I have been in close communication with all our teams to ensure we support each other. We’ve also made it a top priority to reinforce the importance of taking annual leave, using the EAP and supporting flexible working. We commissioned a 12 Steps to Personal Resilience programme for all our European-based teams and encouraged them to adopt the practical hints and tips on a weekly basis.

I am very proud to lead our team in Europe and whilst I have reverted to working at home full time, this has been the only real change for me in my role: We have maintained our strong engagement with our brokers and partners, supported our clients and their members at every step, and have ensured the health, safety and wellbeing of our people are protected at all times.

The pandemic has raised lots of questions about the world of work. How do you imagine the future of the workplace?

Prior to the COVID-19 outbreak, I would imagine that only a small portion of the population had experienced working from home. Some companies may have previously doubted the efficiency and productivity of working from home, preferring to keep their workforce in the office. Personally, I’ve been so impressed by the professionalism and productivity of my colleagues continuing to go above and beyond during this crisis, whilst working from home. Despite the upheaval of this year, we have remained collaborative across the organization, working with our colleagues around the globe.

It is likely that working from home will continue to be an ever-present feature of our working life for the foreseeable future. Homeworking is a new reality for all of us. This may be individual employee preference or simply continuing to ensure social/physical distancing. Whatever the reason, organisations will need to be able to foster a sense of community despite the increased physical distance between their staff. Leaders will need to trust their people and empower them to manage their working day in a way that suits them. This can be a difficult pivot to make as a leader, but I encourage any leader to make this transition sooner rather than later. It takes time to build new working patterns and nurture trust and self-management, but in my opinion, it is worth the investment.

What can organisations do to support employees working from home for long periods, and manage the eventual return to the office?

Boosting and maintaining morale will be critical for employee wellbeing during this extended period of working from home. Never has it been so important to have that virtual coffee with a colleague and to provide virtual events such as quizzes or team activities. In addition, employees should be encouraged to frame their day as if they were in the office and work within their agreed working hours. Although the traditional 9-5 ‘clock in clock out’ approach has been turned on its head, it’s key that employees maintain a balance and don’t fall into the trap of always being available. And yes, I need to take my own advice!

I encourage all employees to take frequent breaks for their physical and mental wellbeing. This is especially important as the days get shorter and its harder to get outside in the evening. Employees should also be encouraged to block an hour in their diary each day to ensure they are taking a lunch break, which will only serve to benefit their productivity for the remainder of the day. 

Depending on where you are in the world and how the pandemic changes, some companies have already started to head back to the office. Employers have a duty of care to make sure that workers feel safe. There are various ways to create a safe, clean, socially distanced environment, such as visible signs and instructions, one-way systems, and plenty of handwashing stations. Ensuring staff are aware of the measures in place to protect their wellbeing is a critical step in implementing social distancing and creating a safe working environment. Communication is key.

To help navigate our customers through these unfamiliar times, we’ve developed a new product, our ‘Return to Workplace Screening Tool.’ This is an online health screening service for clients to monitor the health and wellness of their global workforce. Using a simple online pre-deployment medical screening questionnaire, we can identify responses which may require further intervention and alert HR teams to decide whether further action is required. It has been designed to highlight COVID-19 exposure and any changes in their employees’ health and wellbeing that may have developed since last in their workplace.

We’re also pleased to offer an extension to our Global Medical Arrangement (GMA) service by now facilitating COVID-19 testing across our network of providers. All testing is conducted at vetted and approved facilities by certified and accredited healthcare professionals either through a nasal/throat swab or an antibody test. Our offering is unique in that it is managed in-house, creating a continuum of care for all our members.

Have you managed to keep building your business despite the challenges of COVID-19?

Despite the challenges we have faced from COVID-19, we’re still committed to growing our team. In April we added to our senior leadership team with the appointment of John Kaye as Market Development Director for the EMEA region. John’s hire further strengthens our commitment to this market, with his extensive experience in the international healthcare industry. We have also had new hires in sales support, policy enrolment and client management, all signs of an ever-growing business.

Looking ahead to 2021, we are very optimistic about UnitedHealthcare Global’s continued evolution across the European market. Despite the continued challenges from COVID-19, I feel positive about what lies ahead. We have exciting new plans lined up, including entering the Netherlands market, and I know that we have the people and resources to deal with whatever challenges COVID-19 has in store for us.

1 https://news.yale.edu/2020/05/27/seniors-covid-19-taking-ace-inhibitors-have-lower-hospitalization-risk

2 https://www.medrxiv.org/content/10.1101/2020.05.17.20104943v1

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iPMI Magazine Speaks With Dr. Ian Russinoff, Medical Director, Generali Global Assistance Travel Assistance & GMMI, Inc.

For the past few months, we have read and heard just about everything on the Covid-19 virus pandemic that has now impacted and remains to impact the entire world. Confinement, quarantine, Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), life has organized itself around this new normal. 

In this exclusive interview Christopher Knight, CEO, iPMI Magazine, met with Dr. Ian Russinoff, Medical Director at Generali Global Assistance Travel Assistance and GMMI, Inc. to get his perspective and experience of the virus both as an ER doctor and a patient.

Tell us about your Covid-19 experience being an ER doctor?

Before my diagnosis, I had already personally witnessed both extremes of the illness. I saw many minimally symptomatic patients and a handful of critically ill. I must confess, knowing that this is a novel virus, I was concerned where I would land on the spectrum. I feared that I would be among the healthy young people to succumb to the illness. At times, I had very vivid images of the extremely ill that were losing their personal battle. Fortunately, I had a very mild case and recovered quickly. As an ER doctor with first-hand knowledge and experience that the vast majority of patients did just fine, I knew that statistically speaking the odds were in my favor.

While you are now feeling better, you were diagnosed with COVID-19 due to your exposure to the virus. Can you tell us about your patient experience?

I was fortunate in that testing for front line workers was readily available. The hospital really made us a priority and had processes in place to expedite the diagnosis. I received daily phone calls from the hospital checking on my progress and expressing their concern. I certainly felt very supported and taken care of throughout the entire illness and recovery.

The crisis being somehow behind us, what lessons have you learned?

I must say that I have a new respect for the power and influence that a microscopic illness can have on society. We have heard of swine flu, H1N1 and other viral illnesses over the years. While educating myself on these diseases, I never could have anticipated that the effects would be this dramatic. In many ways, the world has been turned upside down. It will be very interesting to see how the general public prepares for the annual flu season. In addition, it will be interesting to see how we prepare for the next novel virus. While this pandemic started as a public health crisis, it has evolved into a socioeconomic disaster.

Were there any specific complexities you were confronted with since the beginning of this pandemic both from the doctor and/or patient perspective?

I actually didn’t feel very ill when I had the virus. I had fatigue and a mild cough but no fever or shortness of breath. I contemplated whether or not I really needed the test. I definitely felt well enough to work. Ultimately, out of concern for my patients, co-workers, and my family, I decided to get tested. With regards to my family, I was already self-isolating in the guest room in the house for about 3 weeks prior to having any symptoms. Once I started to see the cases in the emergency department, my wife and I felt it was best to avoid family contact as much as possible.

Have you made any changes in your routines since you have returned back to work after recovering from the virus?

I am still taking the exact same precautions from day one. There is still so much uncertainty and unknown about this virus. Do I have effective antibodies? If so, how long will they last? Are they 100% protective? Out of constant concern for my family, patients, and colleagues, I am very attentive to maintain the strictest precautions with regards to handwashing, PPE, and general awareness of my surroundings. I maintain the same routine of getting undressed in the garage, immediately throwing my clothes in the washing machine, and heading to the shower before interacting with any family members. I believe this practice will continue indefinitely.

If you help clarify a myth about COVID-19 in any of the realms that you have experienced it as a doctor and patient, what would it be?

A few months ago, the obvious question was: Am I going to end up on a ventilator? While that is a legitimate concern for people with comorbidities like diabetes and hypertension, particularly of an older age, the vast majority of positive patients will be just fine. Again, I was very fortunate to have mild symptoms, but it is a fact that the fevers associated with Covid are very intense. Anyone that contracts the virus should be mentally prepared for 2 weeks of symptoms, but they should remain cautiously optimistic that they will recover without any complications.

Are we prepared if we were to face another wave of COVID 19 cases in the fall?

We have significant advantages if there is another wave in the fall. Testing processes are much improved. Recovered patients have antibodies to donate. Medications like Remdesivir have shown promise. We are aware that some of the initial treatments do not show a significant benefit. The disease course has become somewhat more predictable. Knowledge is power, and in the infancy of Covid-19, there was clearly a knowledge deficit. There is also strength in numbers. Simply by seeing and personally knowing so many recovered people, we will be much more confident for the rematch.

We previously referred to this situation as a crisis – and looking at global and/or local events – how do we manage the storms ahead from here?

This is a great question. In retrospect, would we (federal and local government) make a lot of the same decisions? While I do not believe we will get a clear answer to that question, we might be able to infer if, God forbid, another pandemic occurs. The long term socioeconomic, medical, and psychological effects remain to be seen. Did the fact that this is an election year contribute to certain decisions? Are some of the far-fetched conspiracy theories not too far-fetched after all? I believe the long-term lessons are still evolving, and it is still too premature to assume how we may manage the storms ahead.

About GMMI, Inc. & Generali Global Assistance Travel Assistance

GMMI and Generali Global Assistance are part of the Europ Assistance – Generali Group and headquartered in South Florida, USA.

  • GMMI is a leading ISO 9001:2015 & ISO/IEC 27001:2013 certified provider of medical cost containment, travel assistance and medical risk management solutions designed to set the industry standard for quality customer service, medical management, and competent claims administration worldwide. By applying leading technologies and a consultative approach, we work efficiently and effectively to deliver high value-added services that provide our Clients with global solutions for managing medical cases, providing travel assistance and containing medical costs since 1992.

  • The travel assistance unit of Generali Global Assistance (GGA) has been focused on the care of travelers since 1963. Our North America office provides 24-hour global value-added travel assistance solutions to leisure and business travelers on behalf of their insurers and employers. With a local presence in 200 countries and territories worldwide and 35 assistance centers staffed with multilingual assistance coordinators and case managers as well as medical and security staff, Generali Global Assistance is here to help you obtain the care and attention you need in case of an emergency while traveling.

About Dr. Ian Russinoff

Dr. Ian Russinoff is an attending physician and the Vice Chairman of the Emergency Department at the Cleveland Clinic Florida. In addition to his duties in the hospital, Dr. Russinoff is the Assistant Medical Director of the Broward Sheriff’s Office (BSO), helping to oversee the medical protocols of the largest EMS agency in the county. He has been practicing emergency medicine for almost twenty years, including medical school at SUNY Downstate and residency at St. Luke’s-Roosevelt Hospital Center in New York City. Dr. Russinoff enjoys being a leader in the field of Emergency Medicine and EMS. He has been tireless in his efforts to improve the practice every step along the way. His dedication and passion are obvious to his patients, the nurses and the paramedics. Dr. Russinoff leads by example, knowing that is the only way to implement positive change. Dr. Russinoff is the Medical Director for GMMI, Inc. & Generali Global Assistance Travel Assistance.

 

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