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iPMI Global Speaks with Jennifer Milton, CEO, Compass Point Assist

In this exclusive iPMI Global interview, Christopher Knight, CEO, iPMI Global, met with Jennifer Milton, CEO at Compass Point Assist. They discussed 2023 in detail and looked at the achievements of Compass Point Assist.

Please introduce yourself and background in the international medical assistance market:

My name is Jennifer Milton. Originally from the United States, I have been residing in Bavaria since 1998. My passion for the outdoors is a big part of my life, as I enjoy hiking and skiing with my dogs, as well as dabbling in photography. I have a science background with a degree in Salmon Biology from the University of Alaska. As there aren´t too many salmon to be found in Bavaria´s rivers, my early career choices in Germany involved various science-based roles in laboratories and fieldwork.

About 15 years ago, an opportunity in a newspaper ad caught my attention – a role requiring basic medical knowledge and proficiency in English for a 24/7 medical assistance company. This role began my entry into the world of medical assistance, which I found incredibly fulfilling. The dynamic nature of dealing with logistical challenges, aiding people, and navigating the complexities of global travel resonated deeply with me and has turned out to be one of my true passions.

Fast forward to today, my accumulated experiences in the assistance and health industry have led me to identify a niche for travellers in the DACH region. This insight was behind the founding of Compass Point Assist (CPA) in September of this year. My team and I are dedicated to developing optimal solutions for travellers in this region. Leading my own company presents its unique challenges and responsibilities, but I am wholly committed to this endeavour. I firmly believe that CPA will be a significant success, positively impacting many travellers’ lives.

In the past 12 months, what has your business achieved in the international assistance market?

Although Compass Point Assist (CPA) hasn't reached its one-year mark yet, our experienced team is proud of our accomplishments in the short time we've been operational. Our initial project has been to focus on the popular skiing areas within our region, renowned for their beauty but also notorious for ski-related accidents. Each year, travellers face challenges due to these accidents, often resulting in excessive medical costs or unnecessary procedures at private clinics.

CPA has taken proactive measures to mitigate these issues. We've engaged with insurance companies, the travellers themselves, ski resort management, and mountain rescue teams, educating them about the potential consequences of such incidents and advising on the best course of action in the event of an accident. Our efforts have already yielded positive results, and we're eagerly anticipating a detailed review of the season come spring.

Looking ahead, CPA is not resting on its laurels. We recognize numerous areas where travellers can benefit from better information and support to prevent illnesses and injuries. Starting in the first quarter of 2024, we plan to launch initiatives addressing these needs as well. These efforts are not just about cost savings for insurers or supporting client retention; they're fundamentally about reducing the stress and complications for travellers during their journeys.

How did you do it?

To address the challenges faced by skiers in popular resorts, Compass Point Assist (CPA) initiated a targeted approach. Our first step was an extensive road trip to 16 prominent ski resorts, particularly those near private clinics known for treating injured skiers. Our objective was to meet directly with ski resort management and local mountain or ski rescue teams.

During these meetings, we highlighted the drawbacks of the default practice of transferring injured skiers to private clinics. One major issue is the financial burden on travellers, as many find a significant portion of their treatment costs are not covered by insurance. This practice not only leads to financial strain but can also result in unnecessary and hasty medical interventions, like knee surgeries. We emphasized the benefits of avoiding immediate surgeries in cases like knee injuries, where reducing swelling before proceeding with therapy or surgery is often advisable.

Our discussions revealed a refreshing willingness among ski management and rescue teams to reconsider their practices. In addition to these efforts, CPA provides pre-travel advice to travellers, guiding them on how to react in case of an accident. We advise them to inform paramedics of their preference for treatment at a university hospital, as these public institutions in the DACH region are renowned for their excellent care.

Geographically speaking, where are the “hot” international medical assistance markets currently?

In the context of international medical assistance, the "hot" markets could be interpreted in terms of high medical costs and travel safety concerns. A prime example is the United States. Due to the lack of healthcare cost regulations, medical treatment expenses can be exorbitant. This situation underscores the importance of having a reliable cost containment partner in the U.S., which we are very fortunate to have. Effective communication and timely notification from travellers following an incident are crucial for us to provide prompt and efficient assistance.

Another critical area is regions affected by conflict, particularly in the Middle East and near European borders. These zones present unique challenges for travel safety, often excluded from leisure insurance coverage. Handling travel risk management for NGOs or corporate clients in such volatile environments is a complex task.

Moreover, terrorist attacks within the last 10 years in major cities like Munich, Paris, Brussels, and London have shown that no leisure traveller is immune to the threats of terrorism. While most assistance companies might not traditionally offer pre-travel safety advice, we at CPA believe it's an essential service and needs to be integrated into every assistance company´s service offerings. Awareness of one's surroundings and having a backup plan are not just about mitigating risks; they can also be crucial in preserving the enjoyment of a well-deserved vacation. A bit of planning and knowledge can go a long way in ensuring safety without compromising the vacation experience.

Looking at 2024, what do you have planned for the international medical assistance market?

As we move into 2024, CPA is not only continuing with the initiatives mentioned earlier set for Q1 but also aiming to broaden our services across the corporate sector in the EU, EEA, and Schengen areas. We've identified a critical gap in insurance coverage understanding that has been a source of financial distress for both non-EU and EU corporate travellers. Our strategy involves collaborating with various insurers to provide support in this area.

Our approach centers around the power of information and pre-travel knowledge. We believe that these are not just tools but essential elements in pre-empting and mitigating travel-related issues. By equipping travellers with the right information before their journey, we can significantly reduce the likelihood of problems arising, ultimately leading to a smoother and more secure travel experience for our corporate clients.

Since Covid-19, how has the international medical assistance market changed?

Since the Covid-19 pandemic, the international medical assistance market has undergone significant transformation. Firstly, there's been an increased focus on health and safety protocols. Travelers are now more aware and concerned about health risks, leading to a higher demand for medical assistance services that can provide timely and accurate health information.

Secondly, the pandemic has accelerated the digital transformation within the sector. Telemedicine and digital health services have become more prevalent, offering remote medical consultations and assistance, which is particularly valuable in scenarios where in-person medical care is not immediately accessible.

Additionally, Covid-19 has highlighted the need for flexible and comprehensive travel insurance policies. Travelers are now seeking policies that cover pandemic-related disruptions, including cancellations, quarantine costs, and medical treatment for Covid-19.

Lastly, there's a greater emphasis on crisis management and emergency preparedness. The unpredictability of the pandemic has shown the need for robust emergency response plans and the ability to quickly adapt to changing regulations and travel advisories.

What role is artificial intelligence and machine learning playing in the international medical assistance market?

Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning are increasingly pivotal in the international medical assistance market, transforming several key areas:

  • Personalized Care: AI algorithms can analyse vast amounts of medical data, enabling more personalized and efficient care plans for travellers. This includes tailored health advice and specific recommendations based on individual health profiles. This is really an area that CPA would love to explore in further depth in the future. We see not all cost-savings for the insurer but preventive care for travellers.
  • Predictive Analytics: Machine learning models are adept at identifying patterns in health data, which can be used for predictive analytics. This helps in forecasting potential health risks in different geographic locations, allowing for better preparedness and response strategies.
  • Automated Customer Support: AI-driven chatbots and virtual assistants are being used for initial customer interactions, providing instant responses to general inquiries. This improves efficiency and ensures that human resources are allocated to more complex cases.
  • Enhanced Decision-Making: AI tools assist medical professionals in decision-making by providing them with comprehensive data analysis, diagnostic assistance, and treatment recommendations. This is particularly useful in complex medical situations where swift and accurate decisions are critical.
  • Operational Efficiency: Machine learning algorithms optimize operational aspects like claims processing, fraud detection, and administrative tasks, making the overall system more efficient and cost-effective.
  • Remote Monitoring and Telemedicine: AI and ML are integral in advancing telemedicine, enabling remote monitoring of patients' health through wearable devices and mobile health apps. This technology is crucial for providing continuous care to travellers.

When we look at the global international medical assistance market, where do you see the major opportunities?

I love this question because this is one of my favourite topics. The evolving landscape of the international medical assistance market presents significant opportunities, particularly in embracing sustainability. As global consciousness about environmental impact grows, travellers are becoming increasingly aware of and concerned about their travel's ecological footprint. This shift offers a unique opportunity for assistance companies to align with these values.

  • Promoting Sustainable Travel Practices: Assistance companies can play a crucial role in educating and guiding travellers on how to make more environmentally friendly choices. This could include information on sustainable accommodations, eco-friendly transportation options, and responsible tourism practices.
  • Eco-conscious Health Facilities and Partnerships: Aligning with health care providers and facilities that prioritize sustainability in their operations can be a significant step. This includes supporting clinics and hospitals that use renewable energy sources, have efficient waste management systems, and practice environmentally responsible medicine.
  • Sustainable Operations: Beyond advising travellers, assistance companies themselves can adopt more sustainable practices in their own operations. This could range from using digital documentation to reduce paper use, to implementing energy-efficient systems in their offices.
  • Innovative Technology for Sustainability: Leveraging technology to support sustainable initiatives is another area of opportunity. For example, using data analytics to understand and reduce the carbon footprint associated with medical transports or employing telemedicine to reduce the need for physical travel.
  • Supporting Environmental Causes: Assistance companies can also make a direct impact by supporting or partnering with environmental organizations, participating in conservation efforts, or contributing to sustainable development projects.

What is the scope for global international medical assistance market?

The scope of the global international medical assistance market is truly expansive and multifaceted, encompassing a huge number of aspects:

  • Geographical Reach: The market spans across continents, catering to travellers and expatriates worldwide. This includes providing services in remote and challenging locations, where medical facilities may be limited.
  • Diverse Clientele: It serves a broad spectrum of clients, including individual travellers, corporate clients, expatriates, students studying abroad, and groups traveling for leisure or business.
  • Wide Range of Services: The services offered are comprehensive, ranging from pre-travel advice, emergency medical assistance, medical evacuations, and repatriation, to telemedicine services, and coordination of care in foreign countries.
  • Technology Integration: The market is increasingly integrating advanced technologies like AI, telehealth, and digital platforms to enhance service delivery, improve operational efficiency, and provide personalized care.
  • Partnerships and Collaboration: Collaboration with various stakeholders, including healthcare providers, insurance companies, governments, and local authorities, is a key aspect. This ensures a coordinated and effective response in emergencies.
  • Health and Safety Regulations Compliance: Adhering to diverse health and safety regulations across different countries and staying updated with changing travel advisories and health alerts.
  • Crisis Management and Support: The ability to respond to global crises, such as pandemics, natural disasters, or political unrest, and provide support in complex and high-risk environments.
  • Focus on Mental Health and Wellness: Addressing not only physical health needs but also providing support for mental health and overall wellness, especially in light of the increasing stress associated with travel.
  • Sustainability and Ethical Practices: Aligning with sustainable and ethical practices, reflecting the growing awareness and demand for environmentally responsible and socially conscious travel.
  • Innovative Financial Models: Exploring different financial and insurance models to provide affordable and accessible medical assistance services globally.
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