Managing health risks in risky places
As more and more Chinese companies deepen their reach into overseas countries, medical risk control has become a top concern, a report indicates.
A growing number of business travelers and expatriates, including an increasing number of Chinese employees, are being sent to countries with higher medical risks, and more of them are requiring medical assistance than ever before, according to a report by International SOS.
“More Chinese employers now have their businesses abroad, and they are realizing the importance of having professional medical assistance to ensure their staff ’s safety,” said Dr Timothy Foggin, deputy medical director for network partnerships at International SOS .
Chinese companies now represent more than 10 percent of International SOS’ business in China.
“However, we have seen rapid growth in our Chinese companies business over the past few years. Our Chinese companies portfolio has grown close to 20 percent from last year,” said Foggin, adding that International SOS is investing more resources and capabilities dedicated to Chinese companies in China and abroad.
Over the past years, Chinese companies have kept investing and operating abroad. By the end of 2013, Chinese domestic investors had set up more than 22,000 companies overseas. The companies are located in more than 170 countries and regions around the world.
International SOS medical case data from 2013 show more than 40 percent of approximately 600,000 medical cases in 2013 occurred in countries classed as “high” or “extreme” risk, a sharp increase from less than 25 percent in 2010. Meanwhile, many costly medical cases in “extreme risk” countries can potentially be preventable.
For Chinese countries, the major in-country medical risks include infectious disease, the lack of adequate medical professionals, facilities, emergency response services and the unfamiliar healthcare service environment. In-country security risks include political and civil unrest, violent crime, petty crime, violence targeted against foreigners and antiChinese sentiment.
“Preparation including risk assessment, education and health check programs for staff, will reduce the need for intervention after travel. This is especially important for those travelling to high and extreme risk countries,” said International SOS North Asia medical director Dr Gordon Peters.
“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,” he said.
“With more and more Chinese companies going abroad to conduct business, the risk that they face in overseas areas will also be on the rise. Actually, we have seen a series of political events, medical incidents and natural disasters which affected Chinese staff in recent years. In this regard, how to provide them with professional assistance and medical service becomes a very important issue,” said Lu Haikuan, chairman and CEO of Shenzhen Deer Jet Medical Co Ltd, a company that has worked in the field of emergency air medical services for two decades.
This year, Shenzhen set up an aero medical base in Shanghai, part of its effort to target more Chinese companies abroad and provide them with timely, one-stop air medical service.
“Now there is a growing need among Chinese companies for such air medical service, and our goal is to provide them with more considerate service,” Lu said.
International SOS said it has dispatched more than 50 Chinese doctors overseas to support Chinese companies’ onsite medical needs in some of the most challenging environments, such as Iraq and Sudan. Moreover, it’s also working on providing more service personnel in countries where many Chinese companies are clustered such as Nigeria, South Africa and Dubai.