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Travel medical assistance

Business travellers and expatriates are being sent to countries with higher medical risks, and more of them are requiring medical assistance than ever. That is according to a medical emergency contractor’s medical case data from 2013 showing its members are working and living in increasingly risky locations and need to consider planning and preparing accordingly.

International SOS Medical Director – Medical Information, Dr Irene Lai said: “Our message is clear. If you haven’t thought about preparing your travellers and don’t already have programmes in place to do so, the time to act is now. Many hospitalisations and medical evacuations are due to preventable causes such as injuries and cardiovascular problems and the risk of evacuation is related to the medical risk at the destination. Preparation of travellers, including a risk assessment, education and health check programme for staff, will reduce the need for intervention after travel. This is especially important for those travelling to high and extreme risk countries. Potentially such preparation can have a positive impact on business continuity. If companies are not proactively managing the health of their travelling staff prior to deployment, they are running the risk of failed assignments, preventable costs, litigation, or even a tragic outcome.”


• _Over 40 per cent of medical cases occurred in countries classed as ‘high’ or ‘extreme’ risk – a sharp increase from less than 25 per cent in 2010.
• _Looking at medical cases by type, heart disease ranks number 5 for men but isn’t in the top ten for women.

• _11 per cent of medical cases in extreme countries are due to cardiovascular disease, while another 11 per cent can be attributed to infectious illnesses including malaria and dengue fever. Many of these cases could be prevented through pre-deployment such as screening for heart disease, or education on preventing mosquito-borne infections.

• _As in previous years, injuries, respiratory and gastrointestinal problems are the three most common reasons that our members will contact us for medical assistance.

Asia and Middle East
• half of cases in Asia and the Middle East are in ‘high’ risk countries with assistance most commonly required in Indonesia, India, China and Vietnam. This compares with 29 per cent in 2010.

Other regions
• _Africa continues to be without any countries classed as ‘low risk’. The combined share of medical cases in high and extreme risk countries has increased since 2010, from 78 per cent to 85 per cent.
• _In medical terms Europe remains a largely low risk continent. Nevertheless, members still require medical assistance in low risk areas. A greater proportion of people (87 per cent) are contacting us from low risk locations, whereas in 2010 the figure was 59 per cent.

• _Medical cases by risk category in the Americas are generally at similar levels to 2010. The number of cases in extreme risk countries has decreased slightly.

• _The number of medical cases in higher risk Oceania countries has increased over the last 4 years, from 14 per cent in 2010 to 25 per cent in 2013.

About travellers

The number of male and female adults under 40 who seek our help prior to, or during, travel is the same. However over the age of 40, the number of men who call us for medical assistance is more than double the number of women.
• _Men are more likely to be injured than women whilst overseas. They are also more likely to have a cardiovascular event (such as a heart attack) or suffer from insect-borne diseases such as malaria and dengue fever.

The data analysis mirrors recent research from International SOS which shows:

• _Nearly half of travellers and expatriates hospitalised in a high risk country will require a medical evacuation.
• _In an extreme risk country, that figure rises to nearly 80 per cent.
• _Only 32 per cent of the 628 organisations surveyed by the International SOS Foundation conduct person/location risk assessments prior to expatriate assignments.


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