You have been in the medical assistance industry for some time. What first drew you to working in the sector, and what has your career progression been?
Having completed a degree in modern languages, I was keen to find a role where I could utilise my language skills while not conforming to the traditional office job. I had little knowledge of the industry in general, but the interview process itself made it clear that I was in the right place! The job is fast paced and extremely challenging, and the fact that it has a global reach adds excitement. Most importantly, it allows me to help people during times of need, which makes it very satisfying.
I joined the industry in 2010 as an assistance co-ordinator. At Healix, I progressed to team leader in operations, then to operations manager a couple of years later. The progression through each position brought varied and unique challenges which have all been useful for personal development. The key was to remain open to all challenges and to work hard. It also helped that I was in the right place, as Healix has a good track record of enabling junior staff members to work their way to middle and senior management positions.
Congratulations on your recent move to Global Provider Network Manager. What does this new role entail, and how you are going to approach it?
It is a very exciting opportunity. I am hoping to bring energy and enthusiasm to the role and to call upon my years of operational experience.
Managing the network team will mean helping to onboard hospitals, agents, and transport providers, all of which are fundamental to our ability to help clients wherever they are in the world. This process is similar to other firms in the industry, but the difference will be in the approach and the techniques that we use to reach our objectives. The first areas I am looking at are the philosophy and strategy of the Healix Global Provider Network team.
I want to achieve better connectivity between the network team and all operational areas of Healix. This will require better provider feedback and assessment tools, so that we can be sure that feedback is constantly coming back into the network team. We will also be carrying out regular self-assessments of the network, and constantly looking to improve. As part of that, we will be developing much stronger relationships with key hospital providers and will be carrying out in-depth reviews of their capabilities in the market. This will ensure that we’re only providing the best possible service to our clients in line with the ever-changing events around the world. It’s all about creating a culture of mutual respect with our providers.
How has Healix survived the fallout from Covid? No travellers means no travel assistance, right?
The pandemic has led to a decrease in the number of short-term travellers, which means that there has been a decrease in the total assistance case volumes. However, Healix provides services to very diverse groups of people, and much of the business is built around more static populations, including government workers, expatriates, charity workers and security staff. During the pandemic, those populations have required even more advice and logistical assistance than before. The complexity of managing cases and carrying out services was also increased by the strain on healthcare systems and border restrictions, so we have been extremely busy!
Business travel seems to be picking up again, with the return of international conferences and other events. Are you seeing an increase in interest from corporates that are more aware of travel risk management now, whether in terms of security or health risks?
Companies are now more aware of travel risks, and, in some instances, have been able to use the last year to review their providers and current range of services. With so much worry about travel over the last year, businesses have also been alerted to more general issues that can occur with their staff based abroad. As such, the level of interest in Healix services has increased in all areas.
Overcoming complex logistical problems is the travel assistance industry’s raison d’etre; but is there one particular case that stands out in your mind for any reason that always makes you think ‘I never want to have to deal with that again’?
In order to work in this industry, you have to be prepared to deal with any complex cases that come your way. It should never be a case of thinking ‘I never want to have to deal with that again’, but rather ‘how could we better prepare ourselves to deal with those circumstances’?.
If I were to try and answer your question in terms of ‘which patients I feel most sorry for’, I particularly empathise with those who experience mental health episodes in countries that do not have developed mental health services, or where mental health is not properly acknowledged. Those cases are very difficult to deal with because we want to help the person involved as much as we can and as fast as we can, but it sometimes takes a little longer because of the circumstances.
What’s your favourite thing about working for the medical assistance sector, and do you have anything you would like to change, if you could?
I love the challenge and the satisfaction of helping others. The industry is constantly evolving, so tackling challenges head on is a must and that’s great for personal development too.
In terms of changes I’d make, it really comes down to sections of the sector which are not always controlled by the assistance company themselves. For example, the travel insurance industry has been commoditised. It would be good to see a shift in sales practices to focus on the quality of service rather than price. If this increased revenue filtered through to improved medical services, it would be a huge positive.
What’s your favourite place to go on holiday to when the world opens up again?
I am eagerly awaiting a long-planned trip to Mexico. It will be an opportunity to see friends and family, and to enjoy good cuisine, good weather and amazing nature. Costa Rica and Iceland are at the top of the list too!
Have you missed travelling for work?
In terms of business continuity, my team and I have made good use of video conferencing tools and the general day to day running of the business has functioned very well. However, travelling for work is fantastic for keeping up with old acquaintances and meeting new people. The part that I’ve missed most is probably the socialising and networking aspect, and the opportunity to make new contacts.
How do you relax at the end of a hectic working week?
At the end of a challenging week I like to get outside and be a bit more active. This includes playing football or watching my sons play, taking my children to other activities, or going to the gym. If I do slow down, it is to watch a movie every now and again or to get stuck into a good book.