In this exclusive iPMI Magazine interview, Christopher Knight, CEO, iPMI Magazine, sits down with Jody Baker, Commercial Director, Charles Taylor Assistance. They discuss in detail Charles Taylor Assistance, their services, the types of clients they work with, the current international medical assistance and cost containment market and the affect of COVID-19 on the industry.
Please introduce yourself and your background in the international private medical and travel insurance market:
I joined Charles Taylor Assistance (then CEGA) back in 2015 as commercial director, after a productive fifteen years in the IPMI, travel and medical assistance industry. My previous work had taken me around the world, in a variety of operational and business developmental roles for major insurers.
If you asked me what I enjoy most about my current role today, I would probably say that working in the medical assistance sector gives me the chance to go home at the end of the day knowing that my efforts have done some good – and that my output can really change people’s lives for the better.
Can you tell us a little about Charles Taylor Assistance?
Charles Taylor Assistance is a global provider of integrated medical and security assistance, claims handling, pre-travel advice, medical screening and travel risk management. With offices on the UK’s south coast and Mallorca, Spain, we manage over 50,000 assistance cases every year and have more than 47 years’ experience of supporting a blue-chip client base.
Having been established by two brothers back in 1973, Charles Taylor Assistance started life as CEGA, adopting its current name after being acquired by the Charles Taylor Group in 2016. Charles Taylor is a global provider of professional services and technology solutions dedicated to enabling the global insurance market to do its business fundamentally better. Dating back to 1884, it now employs approximately 3,100 staff in more than 120 locations spread across 30 countries in Europe, the Americas, Asia Pacific, the Middle East and Africa. This gives us the security of being part of a truly global organisation.
What about the clients that you work with?
Today our clients include many leading insurance companies, banks, charities, NGOs, energy companies and other global brands; many of whom have worked with us for more than a decade. We specialise in providing assistance in remote and challenging parts of the world and in providing a tailormade approach to client service.
What do you think sets medical assistance providers apart?
It goes without saying that a good assistance provider will put patient welfare first whilst protecting insurers’ bottom lines – and this means having seamless access to the right medical, travel, assistance and cost containment specialists, together with a trusted network of global partners. But It’s also essential to take a bespoke approach; to work with partners to create specific expertise and to provide client-specific solutions. This is especially relevant in the context of changing corporate and leisure travel trends – and the global COVID-19 pandemic.
What has been your proudest moment at Charles Taylor Assistance?
Where do I start! In the last five years we have doubled in size, become part of Charles Taylor’s global operation, opened our own international office in Palma, Mallorca and gained many new and diverse clients. We have also been fortunate enough to win several prestigious industry awards. It has been exciting to see my position evolve to become a truly global business development role.
Can you explain some of your company’s recent developments in products and services?
We’re always keen to ease processes for all those involved in the insurance chain - by producing a wide range of flexible digital and operational solutions.
Among these is our integrated medical and security assistance service: Intrinsic Assistance. Developed with our security partners Solace Global, the service incorporates the Intrinsic app, which enables travellers to raise and receive alerts, be tracked and request integrated medical and security assistance at the swipe of a screen.
We’ve also launched an agile medical screening product, Antidote, that automates pre-travel medical screening and gives customers the chance to self-declare pre-existing medical conditions to their travel insurers quickly and easily.
Meanwhile, we’ve expanded our business with the oil and gas, P&I and commercial repatriation sectors; often drawing on our expertise in supporting customers in remote and challenging locations. And we’ve introduced a 24/7 “Speak to a Doctor” service, enabling customers abroad who call our global assistance helpline with minor medical problems to speak to a UK doctor by phone. Last but not least, we’ve just become a global medical office for Aetna International.
How important is medical cost containment?
It’s essential to ensure that every customer’s medical needs are met, 24/7/365. But this commitment needs to be supported by supply chain management experts who provide bespoke global cost containment - tailored to each client’s individual needs. Meanwhile, claims validation teams should ensure that every questionable claim is scrutinised and investigated if necessary, wherever it originates in the world.
In practice, this means managing medical care and validating bills scrupulously, and drawing on the local knowledge of partners overseas to ensure that costs are commensurate with treatment.
It also means using established relationships with airlines and hotel groups to book flights and accommodation at discounted rates – and ensuring that air ambulance and emergency transport services are pre-quoted.
What are the biggest challenges to the medical assistance sector in light of COVID-19?
The impact of COVID-19 is being felt by medical assistance providers across the world. Among current challenges is the difficulty of accessing global healthcare services, especially for elective procedures. Some providers are being taken over by the public health sectors or are at capacity with COVID cases. Spain is a good example where many private hospitals are now working for the public sector.
Other current challenges include limited medical equipment and disrupted medication supplies, elevated costs as supply chains are stretched, and difficulty in transferring sick expats to superior care or repatriating the remains of the deceased.
The situation varies in different parts of the world and is changing frequently – which means that it has never been more important to manage medical transfers on a case by case basis. In these challenging times, it’s important for assistance providers to draw on their experience and use their global networks of partners to overcome obstacles where they can.
What is Charles Taylor Assistance planning for the future/what are the most exciting opportunities?
There’s no doubt that businesses like ours need to adapt rapidly to changing needs; not least in the wake of COVID-19. We have a lot of exciting opportunities ahead that will allow us to build on our services, expand internationally and provide the best added value and service for customers.
We’re currently running trials of Digital Doctor, which integrates video doctor and advanced diagnostic services into the medical assistance process. We’re also looking at different ways of making it easy for customers abroad to reach out for help, for instance via Telemedicine. And we’re exploring ways in which AI can help us further improve the information and support we provide to our assistance customers.
We’re constantly aware of the value of balancing technology with the human touch, and of highly-skilled staff who put the customer first. We know that the reassuring voice in an emergency abroad will always be important.
Last, but not least, if you could live anywhere in the world, on land or sea, where would it be?
I like the simple life. A mountain-top house would be perfect, just as long as I have access to a ski lift and an indoor pool…
Charles Taylor Assistance is a brand style for CEGA. For more information, please visit www.cegagroup.com