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International SOS: Providing Medical Services for Worldwide Business Travel

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Imagine you’re overseas on a business trip and you suffer a serious ankle sprain. You’re not fluent in the language, you’re unfamiliar with the country’s healthcare system, and you can barely hobble your way back to your hotel. What do you do? If your employer uses the services of International SOS, a leading medical and travel security assistance company, the answer is just a phone call away.

“Whether you’re a very seasoned traveler or a novice, you never know what might happen,” said Miriam Jones, the company’s vice president of sales for West Coast USA. She recently spoke with RewardExpert about International SOS’s history and services as well as the benefits they provide companies and other organizations.

Leading medical and travel security assistance company
International SOS helps travelers with medical issues abroad

A 30-Year Evolution

International SOS was founded in Singapore in 1985 by two childhood friends, Arnaud Vaissié and Dr. Pascal Rey-Herme.

“At the time, Dr. Pascal was living in Jakarta,” Jones recounted. “It was home to a very large expatriate population, but there wasn’t adequate medical infrastructure. Whenever someone had a serious medical concern or issue, the closest place of medical excellence was Singapore.”

Rey-Herme and Vaissié began providing evacuation support, arranging transportation to and from Singapore for those who needed medical attention.

“In the last 30 years, the company has really expanded,” Jones continued. “We added 24/7 assistance and security. After 9/11, the need to be able use technology to track travelers and get messages to them evolved. Our current full travel risk management solution is in response to what our customers need.”

Offering 24/7 Support in 100 Languages

Simply put, International SOS’s mission is to help their clients—namely companies and other organizations—care for employees no matter where their business travels take them.

“We’ve built and scaled our infrastructure globally to be able to support anyone in the world whenever something happens,” Jones explained. “No matter what they are dealing with, we have the resources, support and language capabilities to be their partner in caring for their employees and making sure they are safe and healthy.”

One of the ways in which they do this is by offering 24/7 assistance in nearly 100 languages.

“We have assistance centers around the world,” said Jones. “Anyone can call and immediately talk to a doctor, nurse or security specialist within 30 seconds.”

The company works with more than 77,000 medical and security providers across the globe and accredits the hospitals and clinics in its network to ensure travelers are receiving the best care possible.

“We visit the site and make sure they have the right equipment, personnel and training—everything that you would need,” Jones continued. “This is a formal process to vet and accredit these providers.”

She said the company’s model is “call early and call often,” as doing so can prevent an inconvenience from becoming a serious emergency and a costly insurance claim.

“When someone is traveling and something happens, they’re able to deal with it early,” she said. “For example, if you’re overseas and have a rash, you can get treated right away. If you had to wait, it might evolve into a life-threatening condition. The earlier you’re able to connect with a resource that can help you get to the right place for care, the more serious the situations that can be prevented.”

Comprehensive Preventative Programs

In addition to 24/7 assistance, International SOS provides employers with comprehensive preventative programs that include risk assessment, training, and the development of policies and procedures.

“The preventative aspect is a big focus for us,” Jones explained. “We want to give travelers access to information and resources before they leave for a trip. This includes e-learning for medical and security risks. We also have an assistance app that employees can use to get information on the places they are traveling and any associated security risks or alerts.”

As the perception of risk has increased due to events such as terrorism attacks, natural disasters and viral epidemics, so has the number of employers choosing to use International SOS no matter where they send their employees on business.

“We’re seeing a trend where companies want to have a plan in place regardless of where their workers are traveling,” Jones said. “They want to have global consistency because they’ve seen that the new norm is more risk. The things you see in the press aren’t even the biggest dangers. Sometimes, safety comes down to the most mundane things like car accidents and the common cold. These things can happen anywhere and employees need appropriate care.”

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