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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.


Generali Global Assistance Joins CAPSCA To Provide Medical Transport Expertise And Enhance Public Health Response Coordination

Generali Global Assistance (“GGA”) has announced it is partnering with the Collaborative Arrangement for the Prevention and Management of Public Health Events in Civil Aviation (“CAPSCA”). 

Established in 2006 to bring together public and private aviation stakeholders for a coordinated approach to public health risks, CAPSCA is managed by the International Civil Aviation Organization (“ICAO”) with support from the World Health Organization.  GGA, a recognized expert in emergency medical transport, is sharing select proprietary data points about the medical transport flights they have organized since 2019. 

Chris Carnicelli, CEO of Generali Global Assistance, commented on the news, “Partnering with CAPSCA was an easy decision for us. The good work that CAPSCA does in coordinating global resources impressed us as we began our discussions. Our expertise in emergency medical transport and global reach will allow us to be a valuable partner moving forward. Our corporate mission is to be a lifetime partner with our customers and now we get to be a lifetime partner to the world through the ICAO CAPSCA program. Our assistance services are based on caring for our customers and we want to extend that level of care to public health situations where our expertise and resources can help save lives.”

A leader in emergency medical transport, GGA will support CAPSCA’s mission of international cooperation at the public and private levels in all areas of aviation that might be affected by a public health event. By becoming partners of CAPSCA, GGA will contribute to raise awareness, share knowledge, best practices, support coordination, and assist partners in difficult situations. As the world emerges from the current pandemic and prepares for future health crises, GGA will play an important role in providing resources and expertise to CAPSCA.

Dr. Ansa Jordaan, CAPSCA program manager, and Chief, Aviation Medicine Section, ICAO, added, “The extent of the work that CAPSCA does would not be possible without the support from our stakeholders like GGA.  Their role, as a partner, will not just be to provide much needed resources, but to leverage their extensive medical transport expertise to work closely with our team as we improve standards of care and review strategies for future world health emergencies.”

As it prepared to partner with CAPSCA, GGA looked back at the medical transports it arranged both during the pandemic and the year before the pandemic. Some interesting trends and statistics emerged:

  • GGA saw only an eight percent decline in medical transports in 2020 verse 2019.
    • Lower than the 60% decline in world total passengers in 2020, according to the ICAO Air Transport Reporting data.
  • Medical transport requests are increasing in 2021, however, analysis shows that volume will remain seven percent lower than before the pandemic (2019).
  • Based on available data, air ambulance transports from locations lacking adequate medical facilities increased during the pandemic.
  • Almost six percent of all medical transports performed by GGA in the past three years were within the United States.
  • Cost of a medical transport flight (including evacuation and repatriation by commercial airline or air ambulance) remained relatively stable with a three-year average of $22,780, trending slightly downward since 2019.
    • In 2020 the average cost of medical transport went down by five percent with a two percent increase in 2021 – showing a net three-year drop of three percent. 
  • The cost of air ambulance transport went down by 26% in 2020 verse 2019, while the number of air ambulance transports only decreased by five percent. Medical transports can run into the six figures depending on the circumstances and locations, some of the most expensive transports include:
    • In 2019, a $138,440 medical repatriation from Taiyuan, Shanxi province, China to Teterboro, New Jersey, USA.
    • A $180,355 medical repatriation from Bangkok, Thailand to Guadalajara, Mexico in 2020.
    • A $124,800 medical repatriation from Diego Garcia, an island in the British Indian Ocean Territory, to Manila, Philippines is the current leader for 2021.
  • Bermuda was one of the top locations for medical evacuations over the past three years.
  • Boston, Massachusetts was the top US city for GGA-performed medical repatriations from around the world.

“As our data demonstrates – emergency medical transports did not significantly decrease during the pandemic.  Having reliable, consistent access to a highly qualified travel assistance company that can provide these resources will be valuable in the wake of our current health crisis.  In addition to leveraging our understanding of medical transportation, we also care about our customers and want to provide them peace of mind during moments of distress,” added James Sion, Chief Operating Officer of Generali Global Assistance.

About Generali Global Assistance

Generali Global Assistance (GGA) is a leading brand comprised of Travel Insurance & Assistance, Medical Risk & Home Care Management, Identity & Cyber Protection, as well as other care services. GGA is part of the Generali Group, which for over 190 years has provided peace of mind to its clients and their customers and is now supported by more than 72,000 employees worldwide. Our success has been built on establishing trust by putting the customer at the core of everything we do, offering assistance and protection during our customer’s most difficult and stressful situations.

To learn more about Generali Global Assistance, please visit:

About ICAO 

A specialized agency of the United Nations, ICAO was created in 1944 to promote the safe and orderly development of international civil aviation throughout the world. It sets standards and regulations necessary for aviation safety, security, efficiency, capacity and environmental protection, amongst many other priorities. The Organization serves as the forum for cooperation in all fields of civil aviation among its 193 Member States. 


CAPSCA (Collaborative Arrangement for the Prevention and Management of Public Health Events in Civil Aviation) is a voluntary cross-sectorial, multi-organizational collaboration programme managed by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) with support from the World Health Organization (WHO). It brings together international, regional, national, and local organizations to work together to improve preparedness planning and response to public health events that affect the aviation sector. For more information about CAPSCA, please visit:


World Travel Protection Expands Into The United Kingdom

World Travel Protection, one of the world’s leading travel assistance organisations and part of Zurich Insurance Group, has expanded into the UK, with a core team based in London.

The move comes as more corporate employers start to consider enhanced protection for their travelling employees given the ongoing impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on travel, and traveller health and wellbeing.

World Travel Protection already operates two Command Centres in Brisbane, Australia and Toronto, Canada, which provide 24-hour emergency assistance to travellers via location-enabled smartphone apps and mobile connectivity.

The next step will be the launch of a purpose-built London Command Centre in the coming year, according to Adrian Leach, CEO of World Travel Protection.

“With the support of our parent company, Zurich, we continue to invest significantly in state-of-the-art technology and capability to enable full-service global assistance. So we’re delighted to now be able to offer our assistance to organisations in the UK.

“Our Command Centres allow our profoundly-trained team of medical, security, logistical and case management experts to be able to lead operations globally, using real-time data including our security intelligence and mapping technology, as well as world news. Our Command Centres deal generally with more than 100,000 assistance cases and 1,000 medical evacuations a year.”

“What sets World Travel Protection mainly apart from competitors is our global team of in-house medical and security experts, equipped with the latest technology. As more borders re-open, our services will become even more essential due to the additional challenges and requirements brought about by COVID-19,” he said.

According to Zurich’s global Head of Accident and Health, Drazen Jaksic, implementing a careful, multinational business travel solution is more important than ever to protect employees’ health, safety and wellbeing, and consequently aiming to protect the business from reputational and financial impacts if something should happen.

“Risks associated with business travel are changing rapidly and becoming more complex as exemplified by the COVID-19 pandemic, a rise in civil unrest, as well as extreme weather events and related catastrophes.”

“And the growing complexity of business travel risks has brought into sharp focus the value of the assistance services that are provided to help business travellers on the ground, as part of a business travel insurance programme, ” Drazen Jaksic said.

At the core of World Travel Protection’s operations is a range of innovative, technology-based tools to assist the traveller and organisation. These are the Travel Assist Risk Management Portal, the Travel Assist App, and a Global Care Database:

  • The Travel Assist Risk Management Portal allows both organisations and World Travel Protection to track their people in real time against critical global intelligence. The World Travel Protection team can send alerts, in the event of an incident, with the ability for travellers to respond back to the Command Centres for on-going support and management. The portal enables the team to manage critical events, and communicate between a traveller and their company or insurer. This innovation also provides COVID-19 specific information by country, updated every 24 hours, including restrictions applied by local governments, international flight requirements etc.
  • Travellers on the ground receive support from the Travel Assist App, which features targeted travel alerts, regularly updated country guides, an ‘emergency’ button, and constant monitoring locations in relation to risk.
  • The World Travel Protection Global Care Database is an industry leading network withglobal provider coverage..

“Organisations have an obligation to look after their people when they are travelling and try to ensure nothing foreseeable happens which could have been avoided. In addition to support services for medical, travel and security emergencies, World Travel Protection sets objectives to educate and train businesses to mitigate risks before their employees have even departed for their destination,” Adrian Leach said.

“Discussions are already starting on how travel has changed since COVID, and our services will be even more essential as travel resumes for organisations in the UK,” he said.


iPMI Magazine Speaks With Sumit Gaurav, CEO, Roy Medical Assistance

In this exclusive iPMI Magazine interview, Christopher Knight, CEO, iPMI Magazine, met with Sumit Gaurav, CEO, Roy Medical Assistance. They discussed Roy Medical Assistance and its operations in India, and its emergency medical assistance work across Asia, the Middle East and some key tourist destinations like the Maldives.

Please introduce yourself and background in the international medical assistance market:

My name is Sumit Gaurav and I am the CEO of Roy Medical Assistance.

I started my career working with a hospital in India. I lead the international business development for European, American, and Latin American markets. At the same time, I saw that Asia needs a local international TPA because some insurers and assistance companies, out-side of Asia, were not paying the hospitals. Day by day hospitals were blocking international Insurance companies and they needed a local office so they can communicate and take the payment guarantee. At that time many international travellers, expats and students were facing problems for cashless treatments.

In 2016 we discussed this, with the one of the largest hospitals in Asia, explaining that we can handle international claims through a local office. But it was not easy to establish the faith with the hospitals. So, in 2016, I went on to create an innovative, solutions-oriented company offering multiple customizable international medical assistance services.

I founded Roy Medical Assistance as an International TPA and Medical Assistance company in Asia. Since that time, we have contracted with some of the largest group of hospitals and insurers to meet their evolving healthcare needs.

Our goals are help to providers and consequently payors, by processing theirs claims as our top priority and paid the hospitals on time.

Who is Roy Medical Assistance, and what does the company provide?

Roy Medical Assistance is acting as an international TPA and provides medical and claims assistance services in Asia, acting as a local guarantor to over 5000 network hospitals.

  • Single contact number for all insured queries and claims assistance.
  • Rapid access to our network of medical facilities.
  • Step by step case management for out- patient and in patient.
  • 24 hours Alarm centre with caring, trained co-ordinators who can immediately validate the policy cover and arrange direct settlement facilities with chosen medical providers.

Typically speaking, who are your clients?

Great question! Our clients are travellers, students, diplomats, business travellers, NGO’s and long stay expatriate families. To enable access to international medical treatment abroad, we work with international medical insurers, assistance companies, private corporations, hospitals, and medical transportation businesses.

Roy Medical Assistance provides international medical assistance services in India, Nepal, China, Thailand, Cambodia, Indonesia, Vietnam, Singapore, Hong Kong, Maldives, UAE, Turkey and Myanmar. What challenges do these regions pose?

We partner with hospitals in our network in all those areas, but sometimes we faced with the challenge on a small island, in the jungle plus hard to reach mountain ranges where medical facilities do not exist. If any patient is in a remote region, we can provide our best solutions to access the best and most relevant treatment and hospitals in that geographic region.

As example, we face many challenges in the Maldives. Here is a 1000 small islands with no medical facilities and no doctors available. We have sea ambulances and when we receive any request our team reach may reach those destinations within 30-45 minutes. We then provide the first aid treatment where necessary and then evacuate the patient to a network hospital provider.

COVID-19 has grounded many airlines and put a stop to international leisure travel. How has your business handled these problems?

As we all know, COVID 19 has grounded many airlines which resulted in a great impact on all our lives. Unfortunately, most of the travel industry and lot of the travel insurance sector has been severely affected. But our services are 24/7, 365 days a year, as hospitals and other necessary medical services providers are online to track and handle the situation up to mark of client satisfaction.

There are currently over 80 million expatriates around the world. What work are you doing for the expatriate market?

During COVID 19, many expatriates living with their family are fearing the current situation. But we can assure clients, whatever the issue, Roy Medical Assistance can provide medical assistance anytime, and anywhere. Frequently we are speaking with hospital management and our clients if any issues arise, we can provide our best medical assistance solutions.

Can you walk us through the features and benefits of your provider network?

You can read all about our business on our website: Please feel free to contact me directly to discuss custom medical assistance services for the Asia Pacific region.

Technology is playing an ever more increasing role in the international insurance market. How are you leveraging the power of technology to improve patient care, and reduce the bottom line to the payor?

Correct. Technology is playing a very important role in our sector to improve patient care and reduce the bottom line of payor. In that area’s our team is working hard day and night:

  • 24 hours alarm centre is fully operational during COVID-19;
  • We have claims and payment teams, they can verify all claims accordingly to the insureds policy conditions and we pay to the hospitals within agreed time;
  • We have our own medical team in our assistance centre who help the patient and make the medical report that international insurers will understand, in order to approve the further treatment without delay;
  • Very soon we are launching reimbursement software where the patient can upload all documents and within 1 week our team will verify.

In the next 5 years, how will the international medical assistance market develop?

Development areas and opportunities include global mobility, communications, and time management. Supporting the technology and ad hoc information is essential to the success of business.

Last, but not least, if you could live anywhere, on land, or at sea, where would it be?

I always want to live in my home country, India. But during my life journey, I want to travel the whole world to see different countries, cultures, living styles, and meet new people.




QHM (Quality Health Management) Partners With MORE Health To Offer Global Access To Medical Second Opinions

A collaboration between QHM - Quality Health Management, a global medical cost containment leader, and MORE Health, an expert medical second opinion and collaborative diagnosis service, now offers an advanced second medical opinion (SMO) solution for client companies of QHM.

Today, clients of QHM will have easy access to a world-leading second opinion service when making decisions regarding serious life-changing illnesses. Upon client activation, QHM virtually connects the patient's attending doctor with a MORE Health Physician Specialist to jointly develop a comprehensive collaborative diagnosis together with the optimum treatment plan via MORE Health’s outstanding panel of subject matter physician experts in leading centers of excellence around the globe.

"Through this expert collaboration, QHM is pleased to expand its offering with an innovative next-generation second opinion medical opinion solution for its many clients globally," said Sven Thorslund, Quality Health Management’s Sales Director.

"As a care-conscious innovator, MORE Health offers a technology-driven collaborative approach to diagnosis and delivers the most effective treatment plan possible," adds MORE Health's Vice President Strategic Partnerships, Pam Frank. "Patients value understanding their options, payors appreciate more clarity, and medical experts at centers of excellence favor our leading-edge imaging and technologies. Our global mindset and culture of caring align very well with QHM to bring cross-border health management to new levels."

"The MORE Health service ensures that patients have the correct diagnosis, minimizing any chance of error, and allows them to understand the best possible treatment options before making a decision on the best path forward. This service provides much needed peace of mind for patients and the inclusion of these benefits represents significant added value, savings, and differentiation for health plans, reinsurers and other stakeholders, Thorslund further commented.

Watch a quick QHM video highlighting the many advantages of second medical opinions.

About QHM International

Headquartered in Miami, FL, QHM - Quality Health Management (QHM) is a medical cost containment company offering specialized services to global healthcare insurers, reinsurers, and governments. QHM has been guiding the global needs of clients, payers and patients with PPO, administrative, and specialty services since 2000. With exceptional experience and expertise in managing the access, quality, and costs of global healthcare, QHM helps protect clients’ bottom line and customer experience through effective and flexible boutiques style solutions for savings and service. For more information, please visit

About MORE Health

MORE Health, a global digital health company, provides peace of mind and confidence to patients when they need it most—when facing a serious life-changing illness. Delivering second medical opinions virtually, MORE Health delivers a diagnosis and recommended treatment plan from the world’s best medical minds. Offering all the benefits of a second opinion, the service ensures that the attending doctor and the expert physician specialist are aligned through their proprietary, GDPRHIPPA-compliant Physician Collaboration Platform™. Since 2013, MORE Health has helped patients on six continents and continues its mission to provide clients and their members access to the best medical minds in the world—when they need it most. To learn more, visit


Healix International Announces Management Changes

Healix International has announced the appointment of Mike Webb as Chairman of Healix International. Taking over Mike Webb’s role is Charlie Butcher, currently Commercial Director of the business, who has been promoted to the position of Chief Executive Officer.

By becoming Chairman, Mike Webb, who has been Healix International’s CEO for four years, will continue to be actively involved in the company’s ongoing activity. Under his leadership, Healix International has significantly improved its financial performance as well as growing its range of products and services and has seen a very strong commercial performance despite the challenges of Covid, with the Company consistently driving innovation and fostering a customer centric culture.

Charlie Butcher becomes CEO of Healix International from June 2021. Charlie joined the Company in 2006 as Finance Director and was promoted to Commercial Director in 2019. Over the last two years he has achieved considerable sales success in Europe, the USA and Asia Pacific. 

“I am very much looking forward to this exciting new role, building on my extensive experience of the Healix International business over the last 15 years”, said Charlie Butcher.  “More than ever, companies are looking for the safest and most effective ways to get their employees working abroad again. It falls under a company’s duty of care to ensure the personnel they send abroad receive the best possible support measures to enable this to happen.

“Local security and medical facilities can vary dramatically across borders, and employers need to know their workforce has a support network in place. That is where Healix International comes in. Healix medical and security teams work closely together to deliver an integrated risk management and assistance operation, helping to fulfil employers’ duty of care responsibilities.

“I look forward to continuing to oversee the onward commercial success of Healix and working closely with Mike Webb and the Executive Board and feel very confident that we have the right team in place to achieve on-going success.”

Mike Webb added: “I am very proud of the part I have played as a member of the team that has enabled Healix International to deliver profitable growth and be seen as one of the most successful medical and security risk management companies. Healix is a great business that has a proven track record for delivering high quality services to many blue chip companies and government organisations.  I look forward to working with Charlie and the rest of the Executive Board in my new role as Chairman, building on great foundations.”

“We would like to thank Mike for his strong leadership and contribution to the success of Healix International” said Peter Mason, Founder.  “As for Charlie, he brings talent, commitment, vision and years of solid experience to the job. I wish them both much success in their respective future roles and challenges.”


Falck Global Assistance Announces Strategic Partnership with Insured Nomads

Falck Global Assistance (FGA), a Nordic leader in travel risk management and duty of care solutions for corporate and insurance customers, and Insured Nomads, the first insurtech company offering an advanced tech-enabled benefit suite alongside insurance plans for the globally mobile traveller, are pleased to announce a new partnership agreement and the integration of FGA’s Emergency Response Centres to the Insured Nomads portfolio.

From April 1st , this new, dedicated partnership will provide customers of Insured Nomads with 24/7/365 access to FGA’s emergency response centres, a critical communication node in the global assistance value chain. Per the agreement, customers of Insured Nomads will have access to FGA’s emergency response services through Insured Nomads’ JUVO iOS/ Android mobile application, which customers will be able to activate by pressing the app’s built-in emergency button.

24/7/365 Emergency Response Access, Anywhere in the World - from Falck Global Assistance

For Insured Nomads, the agreement with FGA will provide triaging services for customers of Insured Nomads, ensuring the priority of patient treatment, assessing the severity of their condition, and facilitating access to medical and travel assistance. Access to FGA’s 24/7/365 emergency response centres ensure that travellers have access to continuous communication and emergency services

A pioneer in duty of care, Falck Global Assistance is able mobilize in-house specialists and a global network to respond and triage emergency calls. In response to crisis events, FGA can mobilize doctors, medically equipped ground and air transport, or private charter aircraft to reach, facilitate an evacuation, and repatriate personnel from crisis scenarios. Insured Nomads will benefit from FGA’s expertise in travel risk management for the hypermobile global traveller.

The addition of the emergency button and crisis response within the JUVO app by Insured Nomads is value additive to the facilitation of global assistance, emergency evacuations and general emergency response. JUVO links seamlessly to FGA’s 24/7/365 emergency response centres, where an individual’s activation of the iOS/Android app’s emergency button immediately alerts FGA to the need for emergency assistance. Once activated, FGA receives a priority notification that the emergency button has been pressed, whereupon FGA immediately mobilizes medical, security and network resources to respond.

Markus Zettner, Insured Nomads’ Chief Commercial Officer commented, “We are excited to provide unprecedented medical and safety services in collaboration with Falck Global Assistance.” JUVO bridges insurance with a curated bundle of advanced tech-enabled services for those with policies provided by Insured Nomads.

Falck Global Assistance Operates a Simple Business Model: Developing Duty of Care Solutions and Ensuring Value for the Global Traveller

FGA’s network of vetted partners around the world provides the company with a local perspective on medical infrastructure capacity, health risks, armed conflict and social unrest in the world’s most fragile environments. FGA services risk mitigation through an interdisciplinary process, leveraging caring, motivated people to deliver engaging duty of care solutions to empower organizations and travellers anywhere in the world.

In Safe Hands with Falck Global Assistance

As part of Falck Group, Falck Global Assistance is people helping people – it is in our DNA. For more than 100 years, Falck’s activities have been directed at preventing accidents and diseases, providing assistance in situations of emergency and accidents and helping people move on with their lives after illness and accidents. From our regional emergency response centres, Falck Global Assistance provides bespoke 24/7 medical and security assistance to people around the world in all external settings.



International Accident And Health Insurance: Challenges And Opportunities In A Pandemic

By Dr. Lynn Gordon, Chief Medical Officer, Charles Taylor Assistance.

COVID-19 has had a major impact across the world; not just killing over a million people, but also disrupting the global economy, stalling global movement and forcing large swathes of the world’s population to work from home.

The 70 million+ cases of COVID-19 to date (confirmed by the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control at time of writing) have inevitably strained global resources. And, although it’s too early to assess the full impact of the virus on the international accident and health sector, it looks set to leave its mark. But it's not all negative.

Disrupted healthcare

Undeniably, COVID-19 has created challenges to the accessibility and availability of global healthcare; not least by causing international borders to be closed at short notice, local medical facilities to become stretched and hospital beds to become limited. This has affected COVID-19 and non COVID-19 patients alike.

At the same time, the virus has highlighted shortcomings in resource-limited countries, for instance where oxygen supplies are low.  In countries that have created state-designated COVID-19 hospitals with limited services, there has been little, and often no, opportunity to transfer patients to private alternatives. 

Adding to this complexity has been the limited availability of commercial flights; impacting the transfer of patients requiring transport to superior medical facilities or repatriation home. For COVID-19 positive patients, the only transfer option has involved specialized isolation pods on air ambulances. Meanwhile, lengthy compliance measures, including virus testing, have often been mandatory for all patients needing transfers.                     

Rising claims costs

The global rise in medical costs has long outpaced inflation, but COVID-19 has added to the financial pain. The pandemic has, for example, necessitated longer hospital stays for patients whose transfers have been held up by restrictions. It has also created an increased reliance on - more expensive - air ambulances. Combined with the added expense of business interruption, factors like these are increasing the cost of international accident and health claims.

The 2021 Global Medical Trends Survey Report by Willis Towers Watson acknowledges that many insurers are reporting a decreasing trend in claims this year, as most non-urgent medical treatments and surgeries have been delayed. But these delayed treatments, combined with the long-term (largely unknown) effects of COVID-19 suggest that a rapid escalation in claims lies ahead.

It's also important to remember that the availability of a vaccine is positive news, but that it calls for global motivation and the cooperation of communities worldwide to be truly effective. So, we're not out of the COVID-19 woods yet.

Opportunities in a post-COVID 19 world

That's not to say that there are no opportunities in the current climate - and one of these lies in digital development.

US healthcare providers lead the field in their adoption of digital technology; with almost 90% of US employees offered a telehealth benefit last year. COVID-19 is accelerating the wider use of telehealth around the world, which could well help to counteract medical cost inflation, whilst also providing an efficient, user-friendly way for policyholders to access medical triage services. And this could ease the pressure on potentially overstretched healthcare providers.

Digital tools can play an important part in intelligent underwriting too; for instance, by identifying individuals at risk of developing severe symptoms of COVID-19, or of any other serious illness. We’ve had a lot of interest in our own digital tool, Venture, which can assess these risks via online questionnaires completed by globally mobile employees. It can also correlate risks with the availability and standard of healthcare in specific destinations.  

Digital risk assessment tools like this offer an opportunity to access aggregated and anonymised data on the health of employees overseas, which can inform underwriting decisions for international accident and health policies.

Meeting mental health needs

The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that close to 1 billion people worldwide are already living with a mental disorder. And COVID-19 is swelling the numbers. It's no secret that the virus has added to the global mental health load; exacerbating anxiety, loneliness and depression.

But this presents an opportunity to better-fill the void in the provision of mental health coverage and servicing, with drivers from possible regulatory changes and increased employee need. And it’s worth bearing in mind that this need may become more acute as the global economy shrinks and corporates look increasingly to minimise business disruption and retain or improve productivity.

It’s likely that improving mental health coverage could benefit all parties. After all, the WHO estimates that, for every US$ 1 invested in scaled-up treatment for common mental disorders such as depression and anxiety, there is a return of US$ 5 in improved health and ability to work.

COVID-19 may have impacted the world - but collective determination and global cooperation will see us through it.





iPMI Magazine Speaks With Jody Baker, Chief Executive Officer, Charles Taylor Assistance

In this exclusive iPMI Magazine interview Christopher Knight, CEO, iPMI Magazine, met with Jody Baker, CEO, Charles Taylor Assistance. They discussed his recent appointment as CEO; the acquisition of CEGA by Charles Taylor; the current COVID-19 pandemic, and how travel, global mobility and business will look in the future. 

Can you tell us a little about yourself and Charles Taylor Assistance?

I was appointed chief executive officer of Charles Taylor Assistance back in July, after a successful five years as commercial director. Before that, my former roles included head of business development at Cigna, and business development leadership positions within Allianz Worldwide Partners, RBS Insurance and AIG.

I’m now delighted to have the opportunity to continue developing Charles Taylor Assistance as one of the world’s leading providers of medical and security assistance, claims handling and travel risk management. It’s a unique time to take on the challenge, but I’m optimistic about what the future holds.

How has being part of a larger insurance solutions provider, Charles Taylor, impacted the Assistance business? 

CEGA (as we were known then) was acquired by Charles Taylor in 2016. We subsequently changed our name to Charles Taylor Assistance earlier this year and have benefited considerably from the acquisition - with Charles Taylor’s global scale creating many joined-up opportunities.

To give you some background: Charles Taylor is a provider of professional services and technology solutions for the global insurance market, employing over 3,000 staff in more than 30 countries - which means we have the security of a global organisation behind us. As part of the Charles Taylor Group, we have access to resources, expertise and global networks that are helping us realise our ambitions to develop new markets for our services, whilst also bolstering our core offering for existing insurer clients.

How have your operations adapted to the pandemic?

I’m pleased to say that, like many others in our sector, our services have been largely uninterrupted throughout the pandemic. We’ve used our global network of partner providers to help overcome obstacles to international assistance. Meanwhile, our operations staff in the UK have found new ways to manage restrictions to their working lives; many of them swiftly adapting to working from home and drawing on shared technologies to keep connected.

Today, we’re drawing on this flexibility, commitment and cutting-edge technology to collaborate closely with our clients – and to help them make an impact.

What are your priorities for the year ahead?

Since I joined the business back in 2015, we have become adept at bringing in new schemes in short timeframes, in absorbing new teams across multiple lines, and in international scheme implementation from our overseas offices.  And we’re all set to continue doing this.

After months of anticipation, the long-awaited COVID-19 vaccine is in sight and, although the threat of the virus is not by any means over, we’re optimistic about the future of travel and global mobility.

What do providers like yourselves need to offer insurers in these unique times?

Assistance and claims providers have worked hard to adapt and thrive in the face of the pandemic. It’s important now to seize the opportunity to innovate, grow and meet insurers’ changing needs in the new world that is emerging. As we approach the next phase of COVID-19, we will be listening to both clients and customers, so that we can constantly develop our provision to deliver a best-in-class, flexible service to them.

What do you think overseas travel will look like in the future?

It’s likely that corporate travellers will have an increased appetite for knowledge about real-time health and security risks abroad; not just the likelihood of contracting COVID-19 (including severe symptoms of the virus), but also the likelihood of terrorist attacks, political unrest and more. This puts even more pressure on employers to ensure that the right precautions are taken, before, during and after staff assignments overseas.

With the right risk solutions in place, travellers can mobilise again with an increased awareness - and employers can fully meet their duty of care obligations. From pre-travel risk assessments, to destination-specific education and medical and security assistance overseas, the globally mobile will want tools that enable them to anticipate threats (COVID-related and otherwise) and react rapidly to emergencies.

How important is mobile technology in this context?

Flexible, mobile technology is already playing a vital part in travel risk management. It can provide speedy access to individual risk assessments and advice, as well as integrated medical and security assistance and alerts - tailored to specific destinations and needs, and accessible via a single point of contact. Location-based monitoring, check-in and tracking tools are also offering a birds' eye view of travellers in the context of real-time threats on the ground abroad.

Mobile technology is reducing traveller anxiety too; providing reassurance that travellers are fully supported. Reliance on these tools can only grow in the context of today’s travel risks.

Can you share any new developments that will benefit the globally mobile?

As employees return to international travel, we are focused on enabling the workforce to mobilise again in a safe and managed way. This has seen the launch of our new digital risk assessment tool, Venture; developed in consultation with our chief medical officer, Dr Lynn Gordon and Dr Paolo Paredi, honorary consultant and senior researcher at the National Heart and Lung Institute, Imperial College London.

Powered by our online medical screening solution, Antidote, Venture draws on our 25 years’ experience of medical screening and enables employers to take the right COVID-19 risk mitigation measures for its travelling employees. Once employees have completed a brief online assessment, it identifies their individual likelihood of developing serious symptoms of COVID-19, or of being susceptible to other medical risks.

Venture is also providing businesses with health intelligence; enabling employers to take proactive steps that meet employees’ physical and mental health needs at a company-wide level. 

Also supported by Antidote is the Travel Health Calculator; launched last year by one of our major insurer clients to end travel insurance uncertainty for millions of UK consumers with pre-existing medical conditions - helping them buy the right level of cover.

Have you launched any new services specifically for international clients?

We’re always looking to expand our international services and, just recently, we launched Defense Base Act and Workers’ Compensation claims and case management for US and APAC insurers.

These new global services include - but are not limited to - medical case management and evaluation, cost containment, settlement negotiations, labor market surveys and investigations. They draw on our 40+ years’ experience of managing and validating medical claims in diverse, often remote, locations.

Last but not least, if you had chosen a different career path, what would it have been? 

I would probably go back to my original career path, which was farming. I realised early on that I was never going to be able to buy a farm to call my own and, when I was particularly cold and wet, I was offered a job doing some filing in the warm for an assistance company (what was then Inter Group in its very early days) - and that’s how it all started. From that moment on, I have been doing a job I have enjoyed hugely - but the yearning for a tractor and beautiful herd of cattle outside your kitchen window never leaves you. Alas, I still need a lottery win to get there!



iPMI Magazine Speaks with Gitte Bach, CEO and President, New Frontier Group

Please introduce yourself and background in the international medical and travel insurance market:

My name is Gitte Bach, and I am the President and CEO of New Frontier Group.

I started my career in 1990 with International Health Insurance, Denmark. I led the company’s entry into Latin America, helped introduce our new 24/7/365 Alarm Centre and was then asked to help build a new department with a cost containment focus to handle the company’s large medical insurance claims.

In 2002 I left Denmark and went to California, where I founded New Frontier Group. I wanted to create an innovative, solution-oriented company offering multiple, customizable services. We now work with some of the biggest names in the industry.

New Frontier Group provides award winning international medical cost containment. What does award winning cost containment look like?

We never, ever, just sit back and look at the business day to day, but we continuously think about ways we can improve. What is going to be next, how can we develop so that we are always evolving?

We have been doing that both from a technology and a product offering standpoint and we have also developed our employees to live up to that same philosophy in everything they do.

April 2020 and New Frontier Group launched an extremely valuable Telemedicine solution. Can you walk us through the new service and how you see it developing?

We launched NFGtelecare just as the pandemic hit and the world went into lockdown. It was a godsend for many of our clients when access to traditional healthcare was neither safe, nor in many cases, available at all.

Now however, telemedicine is truly established and here to stay. It enhances the service proposition, encourages traveler interaction and ultimately reduces costs.

As well as routine healthcare consultations, we can arrange appointments with a specialist to discuss existing conditions or to get a second medical opinion. We can prescribe and deliver medication via our in-house pharmacy program, Onyx™Rx and if the physician feels that the patient would benefit from further tests or treatment, we can help direct them to a suitable facility nearby.

We need to realize that in this industry telecare is here to stay. Access to healthcare will never revert to how it was before. Telemedicine is now accepted by all our clients.

November 2020, and New Frontier Group wins Industry Supplier of the year at the ITIC Awards. Why did you win this coveted industry award?

Whilst somewhat overshadowed by the current pandemic, we were still extremely proud to have been recognized again at the International Travel Insurance Journal Awards – this time in the new, expanded category of Industry Supplier of the Year.

The award is testament to the continued efforts of our teams in California, South Florida and the UK, in always putting our patients, clients and partners first. From a service perspective, we think that the innovation that most likely impressed the judges was our integrated medical triage, telemedicine and pharmacy concierge service that sits ‘in front’ of our array of cost containment and network solutions. This combination of immediate and low cost access to medical advice and prescription medication, backed up by market leading cost control, is both extremely current and as far as we know, unique in the market.

For international medical payors managing the risks and healthcare of expatriates and people living overseas, what can New Frontier Group provide?

We offer our clients real time, ‘on-the-ground’ expertise and are involved on a daily basis in providing assistance with access to healthcare for expats, students and international travelers. We ensure that the services are appropriate, convenient and of course, part of our extensive network to ensure favourable rates for the payor. This is all part of our service offering and we are also available 24/7 to answer questions or address urgent issues as they arise, irrespective of what time zone our client may be in.

COVID-19 has crashed the travel market as we know it. Travel insurers are washing their hands of COVID-19 risks. Airlines are asking for bail outs. IATA say 25 million jobs are at risk in the airlines and aviation sector. What does the future hold for the travel market?

It has been devastating, both for the travel industry and associated sectors such as travel insurance and assistance. Everyone has had to dig deep and try to ride it out somehow – and we will!

People love to travel and businesses need to travel. There are already some encouraging signs and if these vaccines are rolled out quickly and prove successful, then I think we’ll see a surge from huge, pent-up demand for flights and holidays, with the positive knock-on impact to our industries. Roll-on 2021 is what I say!

Last, but not least, if you could live anywhere in the world, where would it be?

I have been extremely fortunate to live in many different countries and have visited even more! I find every single one unique and I don’t have a particular favourite although I do love the Spanish/Latin American language and culture so that would probably have a strong bearing!

I do know one thing for certain, no matter where I am, I have always made it my clear mission to live every single day and get the best out of it, no matter where you are in the world!




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Medical, Travel And Technical Assistance


A guide to leading international medical and travel assistance companies and providers, operating within leisure, expatriate and corporate business travel markets globally.