Juliana Gim, managing director, Singapore at International SOS, tells Karen Yue how her company is far more than just a solution provider for organisations during a travel crisis
Q: You’ve moved into a bigger facility eight months ago. What’s new in this Assistance Centre that wasn’t available in the previous premises?
We have set up a TeleHealth Area which allows our doctors a private environment to connect with our offshore medics and doctors (who are (assisting a client who needs attention). This facility is used together with various medical technology such as Tempus Pro to enable us to intervene on time.
Also new is an area where we can show our clients how our end-to-end service and assistance works. (For example), we have an interactive station where you can see how our TravelTracker system works. When International SOS was engaged to support the Olympians at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio, that interactive station was used to show our clients what we could accomplish with our TravelTracker system.
Our new and bigger facility also allows all professionals across various departments to work together in the same space. Interaction is easier and quicker. We even have a robot on the operations floor that moves around to perform tasks whenever our medical or security professionals are stuck on the phone but need something done with a fellow professional elsewhere in the room.
Q: What is Tempus Pro?
It is a machine that can be hooked up to a patient to monitor vital signs. We have it in all our 27 Assistance Centres worldwide. Data is sent to our doctors in the Assistance Centre or a remote location, as well as to specialists stationed in hospitals we are partners with. All parties can then work together on the patient. Our objective is always to assess the patient’s health status and determine that only necessary evacuation is done.
Q: Besides the 2016 Summer Olympics, what other events has International SOS supported?
We have been closely involved in many past Olympic Games including Sydney 2000, Athens 2004, Beijing 2008 and London 2012. We were equally involved in the football Confederations Cup 2013 and the World Cup 2014. We also supported around 350 global organisations with a potential 10,000 visitors to the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi.
We have been called upon to support major sporting events around the world because of our established infrastructure and capabilities.
For the Games in Rio, for example, we set up our 28th Assistance Centre – a temporary facility – because we had many clients to serve during that time. We also set up a major clinic outside of the Olympic Village, which was dismantled after the event.
Q: Has International SOS supported any business events?
Last year we supported ITB Asia in Singapore, the 2016 Fortune and Time Global Forum in Rome, and the Business Travel Show in London.
International SOS supports several events around the world, and I hope in time to come I will be able to announce another event we will be supporting. This event will take place in the later part of the year in Singapore.
Q: How about support for global association meetings where the brainiest and most influential folks in their field are gathered?
Well, we could still do a lot more to raise the awareness of duty of care during such events. The good thing is, we have a lot more people today who understand the importance of prevention, and have been using our TravelTracker app to help them make the right travel decisions.
Singapore Assistance Centre
Q: How can a company engage International SOS' services?
We are able to customise a programme to fit the needs of the client. Every client is different and their traveller profile is different. Furthermore, our services are varied too. We provide more than just the Assistance Centre, we also offer consultancy services. Some organisations engage us to look at their travel policies and assess their travel risks.
Q: Have corporate clients asked for International SOS’s assessment of the use of sharing economy travel products, if they are safe enough for business travellers?
We have the capability in assessing the safety and security of suppliers should clients want that. In fact, some government organisations have approached us for supplier assessment.
Q: What are some of the most common purposes corporate clients call for International SOS assistance?
In 2015, we provided 1,557,500 services to 4.6 million assistance calls, of which about 70 per cent were medical services related and 28 per cent were travel and security services related. By medical services we mean advice and referrals, in-patient, outpatient, topside support, healthcare management and MedFit, medical arrangements and consultations. By travel and security services we mean advice and referral, and assistance.
The most common reason for corporate calls is traffic accidents.
Q: A decade ago when I did an interview with International SOS, the biggest challenge for the company then was to convince organisations that duty of care and travel security are critical. Today, I’m hearing from you and your team that most organisations have understood and accepted that. What other improvements would you like to see?
It helps that there are international bodies promoting this awareness. Coming up in September at the World Congress on Safety and Health at Work, which will be held here in Singapore, a declaration will be signed by international organisations and endorsed by the Singapore Ministry of Manpower.
Organisations that sign this declaration pledge their commitment to looking after the welfare of their expatriates and business travellers. That is a sign of growing recognition of duty of care.
There are also far more news articles being written about this topic, and that helps to spread the message on duty of care and travel security.
Legal firms are also coming forward to write about the need for companies to provide duty of care and the repercussions of not doing so.
With all these being done, I hope to see an even greater commitment to duty of care, especially among SMEs which tend to be motivated towards this by legislation, and to see more corporate organisations take time to think what else they can do to ensure a safe working environment.