Safe and Sound Part 3:
Planning for the "What Ifs"
- CMO Dr Luke Banks

Episode #33 of NAVIGATE shares the importance of planning for the 'what ifs' when travelling.


Hi and welcome to navigate. I’m your host Jade. I’m the corporate team leader here in our London command center. 



And joining me today is the regional chief medical officer for EMEA. Dr. Luke banks. Lurk is a triple accredited consultant in anaesthesia intensive care and pre Hospital Emergency Medicine. He has extensive experience in retrieval and transfer medicine on various transport platforms throughout the world. Today’s episode is the third part of our medical series. In previous episodes, we’ve discussed different methods of evacuation and repatriation, as well as inspiration taken from health care, and how we’ve modeled our assistance and care here at world travel protection. Before we dive in today’s topic around complex evacuations. Can you tell us a little bit more about your background lurk? 



Hi, Jake. Thanks for having me. So I’m a NHS consultant. I’ve had a varied experience to date both in hospital as a nice test and Critical Care Consultant were exposed to the full spectrum of medical specialties, but also outside of hospital in the pre hospital setting. I’ve had experience of critical care retrieval, both in the UK and overseas on a number of different transport platforms. And so I’m familiar with some of the issues around safe and effective repatriation of our customers. 



As a triple accredited consultant in anaesthesia, intensive care and pre hospital emergency medicine, how has your diverse experiences prepared you for your role as regional chief medical officer for EMEA at world travel protection? 



Well, I think what my experience has given me is an ability to understand the customer journey. So if we take a road traffic collision in North Africa, for example, what it gives me is an appreciation of what’s happened to the customer at the point of injury. The anticipated first steps are, whether in hospital journey looks like and when it is or when it is not appropriate to attempt an evacuation back to the home country. 



Thank you for your insight on that. For any listeners new to travel risk management, what does a medical evacuation look like? What’s the process from a traveler calling in to getting them back home? 



All first priority, obviously, is to get some information, understand where the customer is, and perform effective triage, to ensure in the first instance that the customer is in the right place, getting the right care the first time and then it’s a process of liaison with the treating medical offices to understand what the plan is, what the next steps are also to ensure that the customer is fully engaged and aware of what they’re going through. And then liaise with the treating team in country to understand when the window of opportunity arises to get them home. 



Thank you look, and I know a lot of our clients are in really remote locations, what sort of considerations are taken into account when moving them to the next Center of Excellence? 



Thanks, Jed. I mean, it’s important to say that watch or protection, we take great care in understanding the content within our global care network. So we have to understand where the patient is, what can be provided, where they are, and what can’t. And it’s my job to make that decision. Often that actually there is a necessity to move the patient to a higher standard of care in a different location. And we don’t do that lightly. But if it’s what the customer needs, then we do that. And what informs that processes are rolling program of governance and accreditation within our global care network. So we constantly are looking at the network, the providers in the network and sharing them for our customers. 



Great, thank you so much. As an expert in retrieval and transfer medicine, how do you approach medical evacuations for business travelers in particular? And what are some of the challenges you faced in these situations? 



Yeah, thanks. Well, an example would be we have a number of corporate clients that operate in remote difficult to access areas in Asia and West Africa, in particular. And our role is to ensure that we liaise correctly with the treating medical team in location, the responsible for getting the customer to a secondary medical facility. And at that point, we will swing into action and conduct the subsequent assessment and then if necessary, retrieval of the customer from that location. So there’s a really important elaborative piece that goes on in these rural locations with the local medical team and our medical team here in the UK. 



Thanks, Luke. Just a follow up on that, is there any particular considerations or aspects that are involved? Considering a lot of our clients are in that EMEA region? 



A number of locations where our corporate customers find themselves may be susceptible to for example, civil unrest and real variability in May adequate provision even in capital cities. And so when we are considering thresholds for evacuation or not, we have to consider the wider picture in these individual country, mea region. 



Thank you again, in particular, is there anything that world travel protection has to do to adapt to these differences? 



I think the crucial thing that we do actually very well is that we have a genuinely collaborative approach with our security team to provide a fairly robust travel risk management approach and opinion from our corporate customers. And I think what we also do very well as we encourage our corporate clients to have their own organic plans to think ahead and be prepared for unexpected events was working abroad. 



Thanks, Luke. I think as well, in preparation for them being able to have access to pre travel security briefs also comes hand in hand with that as well. And also with our risk line intelligence system, having a medical aspect on there as well for the different vaccinations that these travelers may need going into these remote countries as well. Further on that, what are some of the unique medical risks that business travelers face in their mere region? And how can these be prevented or managed? 



Well, I think you’re right, Jane, and just picking up on that. I mean, what’s interesting is that there’s an emerging role here for AI, that allows us to predict or identify outbreaks, if you will, of emerging conditions and trends and hotspots or certain areas that allow us to inform or keep our customers informed, specific risks for mea in particular, I mean, it’s obviously a large area with a number of diverse societies and cultures. And I think the risks are that customers aren’t sensitive to that. But I think if we’re looking at what are the specifics, I think road traffic collisions are really right at the top and the traumatic injuries as a consequence of that. And so you know, I would impress upon everyone, there’d be fairly discerning what taxes you get into and what modes of transit you use. And obviously, then gastroenteritis is probably a close second. 



Thank you. But can you touch a little bit on AI there? So I might ask this question next. What role does technology play in medical travel assistance? And how do you think this is changing the industry? 



I think technology is revolutionizing the industry. Clearly, water protection, we have our portal, which keeps our corporate customers informed in real time of emerging issues. And I think, as I said, that collaboration with the medical assistance, security risk assessments really provide a unique solution for our customers. I think it’s also important to remember though, that technology is fallible, and everyone should have a plan when technology doesn’t work. And I think having your itinerary written down, having your go to hospital locations or medical facility locations written down, or points of contact written down and be mentally prepared for that unlikely occurrence is also good practice. 



Look, you’ve touched on how we work with the treating doctors on the ground. Can you think of a case example where we’ve worked with the physicians to bring the customer home safely? 



Yeah, sure, I can think of a good example, actually, we had a case of an individual, unfortunately diagnosed with a brain tumor in South Africa. And they were transferred subsequently to a center of excellence in the country. And we were able to form a good working relationship with the treating medical team in location and agree a treatment plan for this customer, which saw them having their primary curative surgery in location, and then subsequent repatriation back to Australasia throwing a period of recuperation in South Africa. I think that was a really good example of us identifying that actually, the patient was in an appropriate place to have the surgery in a timely manner as soon as possible, because that’s what was required. And then as a process of collaboration, identifying the window of opportunity to get the patient home for onward convalescence. 



Thank you so much. Look, is there any final advice or best practices for business travelers to ensure they are prepared for medical emergencies and are receiving the best possible medical assistance and care? 



I think it’s important for all travelers to have considered the what ifs important to have done your own due diligence in conjunction with whatever ATP can provide. Consider where you are considered the risks in country and what you can do to mitigate them understand what medical facilities are around you where they are and how to get to them. I think that it’s just part of having a personal plan for travel. 



Very good advice that lurk. Speaking on the what ifs. I know a lot of our corporate travelers are all around the EMEA region, sometimes in really remote locations. Is there any sort of plans that are put in place in case there is a real medical emergency or evacuation needed? 



Yes, certainly. I mean, we Very recently prepared a medical evacuation response plan for a corporate mining clients in West Africa that really did a deep dive into the what ifs of an injury in location, but then required a subsequent five hour road move to the capital city, what that looked like in the capital city, and at what point a threshold would be met to trigger a subsequent aeromedical evacuation to another country. So yeah, we do that. And I think we do it well, and we’re ready to do it for other corporate customers in similar locations. 



Thanks so much for your time. Luke, it’s been really great to chat to you about the complexities about medical evacuation specifically in the EMEA region. Looking for the Best Travel podcasts to inspire your upcoming adventures, while also helping you travel smarter. Listen to navigate the top travel podcast that enhances the way you explore the world found on our world travel site under our travel assist hub. In each episode, our world travel protection horse speak with a travel industry expert or experienced everyday traveler to bring you thought provoking travel insights, experiences and advice, helping empower you to travel the world competently. Subscribe wherever you listen to podcasts to always catch our latest episode. That’s all for today’s episode. Thanks for listening goodbye and safe travels. 

In this episode, Luke covers the importance of planning – especially for medical disruptors. Consider the ‘what ifs’ for risk around your destination, have a plan for go-to medical facilities, and be able to access a credible network of support.

Luke shares examples of how WTP supports travellers and treating physicians in making the decision to move a patient, and he shares how AI is impacting healthcare.

Listen to this final series episode to learn more about evacuations and unique risks when travelling to EMEA.

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Safe and Sound Part 3: Planning for the “What Ifs”

CMO Dr Luke Banks covers the importance of planning for the 'what ifs' when travelling.

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