Better preparation needed for business travel

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As the number business travellers and expatriate grows in countries with higher medical risks, more of them are requiring medical assistance than ever before according to International SOS.

Analyse of the organisations medical case data from 2013 shows that more than 40% of medical cases occurred in countries classed as ‘high’ or ‘extreme’ risk – a large increase from less than 25% in 2010.

Of the medical cases in extreme countries 11% are due to cardiovascular disease, while another 11% can be attributed to infectious illnesses including malaria and dengue fever. International SOS stated that many of these cases could be prevented through pre-deployment programmes such as screening for heart disease, or education on preventing mosquito-borne infections.

International SOS Medical Director - Medical Information, Dr Irene Lai, said organisations need to think about preparing their travellers and putting appropriate programs in place.

“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,” she said.

“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.”

Other findings from the data analyse include:
  • 50% of medical 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% in 2010.
  • In medical terms Europe remains a largely low risk continent. However, a greater proportion of people (87%) are contacting International SOS from low risk locations, whereas in 2010 the figure was 59%.
  • The number of medical cases in higher risk Oceania countries has increased over the last 4 years, from 14% in 2010 to 25% in 2013. 
  • Men are more likely to be injured than women while 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.
Travellers are also being warned to ensure they have taken out the appropriate travel insurance. Grant Waldeck, spokesperson for insurance comparison website, comparethemarket.com.au stated while is March the peak time for Australian’s to purchase travel insurance a significant number of travellers fail to purchase a policy that directly matches their needs, or fail to purchase one at all.

Grant estimates of those that take out an insurance policy, more than a quarter will do so without considering the potential dangers that exist while on holiday.

“Alarmingly we do see many travellers booking their policy based on price alone. We urge Australians to also consider excess costs and what cover their policy stretches to. This should then be assessed against the level of risk involved with where they may be travelling before a purchase is made,” Grant said. “While locations such as Europe and the US may sound like a ‘safe bet’ when it comes to avoiding risk, dangers can occur in even the most prestige or built-up cities.

Here are five dangers to consider when booking a travel insurance policy according to Comparethemarket.
  1. Water: Be aware of not only the drinking water but also swimming water. Swimming in highly polluted water can lead to a range of serious illness.
  2. You may not be covered by Australia’s reciprocal healthcare agreement. This mutual understanding between Australia and some EU Governments entitles Australians to free or subsidised healthcare. This agreement can alter from country to country, with some European nations not taking part at all.
  3. Traffic incidents are the number one cause of death for travellers.  Approximately 1.3 million people are killed on the world’s roads each year. “In Bali alone, you’re more likely to be involved in a road accident than a bar brawl with reports of around 150 people hospitalised and at least three dying each day as a result of a road crash,” Grant said.  
  4. Ferries can be fatal. Larger vessels such as fast-speed ferries can cause mass injury to tourists. In 2013 more than 80 people were seriously injured while travelling in a ferry on a popular tourist route in Hong Kong. Grant advises to do research and travel with reputable businesses.
  5. Pickpockets: The danger of pickpockets exists not only in markets of developing countries but also major cities such as Paris and Rome. 

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