A welcome parachute for travelling students
While international students may think traditional travel insurance is sufficient for a gap year or period of study, this might not be the case. ITIJ spoke to industry experts for the inside track
According to Claudia Reichstein, head of DR-WALTER’s international programmes department, there is a need to provide a seamless user experience for future student generations.
“In order to reach international students, assistance needs to be interactive. We have integrated consulting tools on our booking sites where we navigate the students. By answering questions, they are directed to the insurance solution best meeting their needs,” she said.
Depending on the country of study, many have mandated minimum health policy coverage requirements for international students, observed Crisis Cover CEO, Carole Tokody.
“These health policies typically cover the costs of medical and hospital treatment if the student is injured or gets sick in the country where they are studying,” she said. “However, health policies often only provide cover for events within the border of the destination country. Students still require a traditional travel insurance policy for stopover destinations like Thailand.”
In the past, most student policies only provided cover for any medical assistance they may require as part of their travel, points out Claire McKinnon, Healix Director of Sales & Key Partners – EMEA.
“Increasingly though, security assistance is being sought too. We provide both forms of assistance for insurers and are seeing a big uptick in those considering various security concerns around the world,” she explained. “For example, our Travel Oracle App sends security alerts directly to the student, notifying them of incidents that may affect their travel and safety – it’s being well used by the student demographic.”
Contemporary travel insurance and health providers are looking to augment standard policies to provide a more holistic duty of care
Contemporary travel insurance and health providers are looking to augment standard policies to provide a more holistic duty of care, according to Tokody.
“Arriving in an unfamiliar country can be a stressful experience. Navigating languages, a new culture, banking and transport systems, being away from family and friend networks and trying to live up to the expectations of study is stressful – for students and parents,” she said.
“We considered this experience and partnered with major health providers to deliver to university cohorts a security service for international students. Our Student Parachute offer provides access to advice, support and on-the-ground security assistance, 24/7, at the touch of an alert button. We also provide real-time, geolocated safety alerts, translation services and general assistance.”
Connect with clients
With the help of technology, it is possible to simplify processes in favour of a seamless customer journey and a carefree stay abroad.
“Our clients can easily book appointments for a telemedicine consultation via our claims app, MY-SAFETY-APP2. This also includes mental health support. Cultural differences clearly impact on different aspects of mental health,” said Reichstein. “Compared with physical illness, there is still a stigma around mental health. Telemedicine helps, giving access to online consultations where the student’s situation and needs can be evaluated.”
Indeed, apps and technology offered by providers mean that students can activate any part of their assistance policy from any location, 24/7, according to McKinnon.
“They can be connected to the operational assistance centre, from which they are directed to the most relevant service immediately,” she said. “This is extremely common from a mental health standpoint, and we connect the student to the most appropriate service – from psychological or psychiatric counselling, right through to inpatient psychiatric care. In the most serious cases, Healix can coordinate and plan for medical evacuations to a place of safety.”
Tokody observes that one-in-two international students are vulnerable to psychological distress based on trait stress, loneliness and anxiety scores.
“What is also alarming is that 34.5 per cent of international students are not certain they could access a friend, family member or neighbour in a time of need. Student Parachute also delivers to health providers and universities a 24/7, proactive, student mental health wellbeing service via an app,” she said.
“Our wellness proposition provides for the prevention, early detection and self-management of common mental health conditions, using validated clinical scales to screen for symptoms of anxiety and depression. Guided self-help is delivered in-app, supported by a messaging service in a private, secure chatroom between the student and a coach (psychological therapist). They can triage the individual to decide if they require further help or support.”
What makes these policies unique?
According to McKinnon, long-term student travel policies are unique to the client, but the base idea is the same.
“A student travelling or living abroad as part of a degree might need different support to someone on a short-term work trip, for example, but the fundamentals remain. The right service provider will always put the in-situ customer first, to ensure they get the best possible care. Sometimes that means advising where additional services might be suitable for the insurer’s client – in this case, the university that has a duty of care may want to add further services onto their insurance policy, if they do not come as standard. This might include security tracking or treatment options, but ultimately the level of provision is down to them, and the level of cover required depends on the area the student is travelling to.”
Student Parachute looks to work with the health insurance provider and their clients to deliver a stylised proposition, unique to the circumstances, affirms Tokody.
“While health cover products require the lodgement of claims, our assistance services provide immediate and proactive real-time assistance, mitigating potentially larger claims through early intervention,” she said. “Our security offer also provides the ability to geo-fence a particular university or area, working hand-in-hand with the university to protect students. In the event of a crisis, we can locate, identify and message students to guide them to safety.”
In relation to what is commonly requested by international students, Katja Keuneke, head of DR-WALTER’s claims department, says that in locations where hygienic conditions do not meet European standards, stomach and intestinal diseases are common.
“In tropical countries, infectious diseases such as malaria or dengue fever are typical for the respective regions. Colds and coronavirus infections occur regularly worldwide. In addition to illness, we frequently treat minor and major accidents,” Keuneke said.
“For example, slipping on a cliff while watching the sunset can have various consequences. We actually see similar scenarios more frequently. So far, fortunately, they have been mostly minor injuries such as abrasions all over the body, but they need to be taken care of appropriately to avoid serious infection. Broken bones and head injuries have also occurred, which in serious cases can sometimes result in repatriation to the home country, or evacuation to other countries where medical treatment is guaranteed.”
Access to alcohol, a lack of parental supervision (often for the first time) and a thirst for new experiences often leads to students finding themselves in dangerous situations
According to Tokody, the student health insurance claims experience is what could be expected in any large population of young adults.
“Access to alcohol, a lack of parental supervision (often for the first time) and a thirst for new experiences often leads to students finding themselves in dangerous situations,” she said. “We see our role at Student Parachute as being a reassuring safety net to steer students away from danger, getting them to safety before things are out of hand.”
Indeed, with student groups, there are higher incidents of accidents leading to the need for assistance, observed McKinnon.
“However, these cases vary in terms of medical type, the nature of travel pattern or location and the duration for which they are abroad. For instance, a student based in a city near medical facilities will have different needs to one in a remote location on a field trip, even if they have the same medical condition,” she concluded.