Dr Tim Hammond
In recent years, we’ve seen growing political instability in Libya, Syria, Egypt, Turkey and beyond creating fertile ground for civil unrest and extremist groups - Islamic State among them. We’ve seen continuing fallout from the World Trade Centre attacks causing volatility, conflict, kidnapping and terrorism in Afghanistan and Iraq. And, as individuals become more widely prepared to kill themselves for their cause, we’ve seen the threat of terrorism draw closer to UK shores.
Several once-safe employee destinations have been relegated to the Foreign Office list of high-risk places to visit: joining other traditionally risky areas in North Africa, the Middle East, the Mediterranean and Pakistan. At the same time, emerging destinations have opened their borders more widely to the world: among them Cuba, Myanmar and Cambodia. Many have limited medical infrastructures and untested security environments.
These developments are increasing employers’ awareness of their duty of care obligations. They are also driving the need for an ever-wider range of assistance services to support the global mobile workforce.
Explore the challenges
Health problems for employees abroad are (as always) more likely to be caused by conditions like gastroenteritis, chest infections, accidents and complications of existing medical complaints than by serious disease or terrorist attacks. But today they are made more serious by the challenging and far-flung destinations in which employees find themselves.
The journey to a doctor’s appointment in a high-risk country, for instance, will call for a security-trained driver in a secure vehicle. The success of an emergency medical evacuation in an area of political instability will depend on real-time security intelligence. And the lack of hospitals in an emerging country may turn a routine medical complaint into an emergency, unless a patient can be transported elsewhere (and that destination must be safe).
Employees increasingly need to be tracked by their employers too - even in destinations close to home. In the wake of the Paris and Brussels attacks, many organisations did not know if their employees were in the vicinity or how to find out if they needed medical assistance. The atrocities took many victims and made employers realise that they are not doing enough to protect their people.
All this suggests that the medical and security needs of employees overseas are becoming more and more entwined.
Help employees to feel safe overseas
In today’s climate of greater accountability, employees expect their employers to assess all the risks before they set off abroad. And, as they move with ease from one side of the world to the other, they expect a corresponding ease in access to high-quality medical and security support. Employers are feeling compelled, both by duty of care obligations and by terrorist attacks across the Channel, to provide this.
Employers are beginning to request joined-up medical and security assistance so they can manage all their risks and emergencies together. They want to be informed about everything from medical care and disease, to the prevalence of civil unrest, piracy or terrorism - before an employee deployment overseas. They want employees to be trained to cope in hostile environments. And, once they are abroad, they want them tracked and supported with integrated medical and security risk alerts, information and end-to-end solutions in an emergency.
Integrated support should be available at the swipe of a screen, or via a single call. It should be underpinned by pre-travel risk management and driven by state-of-the-art technology: giving employees in situ and their employers at home 24/7, real-time, location-specific alerts and intelligence about medical and security threats, and one-stop access to integrated emergency responses.
This post was written by Dr Tim Hammond, Chief Medical Officer for CEGA, and Kieran Lavy, Senior Tactical Intelligence Analyst for Solace Global. CEGA and Solace are exhibiting their one-source medical and security assistance service, INtrinsic, at the Business Travel Show in February, Stand B251. Travel bookers, buyers and managers can register for a free pass at www.businesstravelshow.com