Preparing new expat staff for a late night medical emergency

Bumrungrad International Hospital Emergency Department, Bangkok Thailand

Now that travel restrictions have eased, companies are again sending expat staff and their families to their international offices.

For expat staff, moving to a new country is daunting, and challenging. And whilst they are familiarizing themselves with their new home and job, the biggest fear that sits in the back of mind for every new expat staff member is what to do in a late night medical emergency? So alleviating this fear by preparing new expat staff for a late night medical emergency should be a top level priority, and addressed as early as possible.

New staff can be particularly concerned about late night medical emergencies as there is no guarantee of contacting HR or other support in the middle of the night when when everyone is sleeping.

Information on preparing new staff for a late night medical emergency can be shared in orientation week. However, we need to remember that new staff are bombarded with information after orientation (housing, banking, payroll, visas, buses, travel, etc) and are very likely suffering from information overload.

So what do we suggest to HR? Make the information easy to find and refer to.

How? We share a few simple tips on preparing new expat staff for a late night medical emergency that you can bring to your medical insurance staff orientation meeting, which will help staff and HR rest a little easier in these first few weeks.

Furthermore, it will also help avoid preventable medical situations from escalating and reduce calls for help to company leadership in the middle of the night when new staff members are unable to contact support staff.

Tip #1 – Give new expat staff members a medical emergency folder that they can grab and go

You can do this on day 1, and is the most important part of the “be prepared” mantra. Give staff a medical emergency folder that they or a family member can quickly grab in the case of a medical emergency, and has all the basics they will likely need.

The best thing about this folder is not what it contains, but its ability to empower the holder – even if they forget everything you told them in orientation week, and even if they did not attend.

This emergency folder should include:

  • Local emergency telephone numbers
  • Insurer contacts and helpline numbers
  • Local hospital contacts and telephone numbers (top 3 hospitals used by staff)
  • Local clinic contacts and telephone numbers (top 3 clinics used by staff)
  • a copy of their health insurance claim form 
  • any other relevant information

We suggest staff also make a copy of the following and add to the folder: 

  • Passport copies
  • Visa copies
  • Insurance member ID card copies
  • Details of any allergies, rare blood types, or other important medical information, such as medication
  • Next of kin contact details 

Tip #2Have a staff orientation session in the first week or so after arrival

This can be jointly run by HR and your broker / insurer. 

Give all new staff the medical emergency folder (if you haven’t already done so). 

Give the staff a general overview off their cover, noting the important sections such as: Does your plan include emergency evacuation? What is your plan’s hospitalization limit? Are there any hospitals that are not covered by your plan? 

Discuss Tip 3, 4, 5, and 6. 

Tip #3Ensure staff save emergency telephone numbers

Preparing new expat staff for a late night medical emergency requires simple, clear and easily accessible information. In your new staff orientation, show a slide with the following details and (strongly) request everyone to save into their phone there and then. 

Example of slide content:

Local ambulance telephone number: { insert phone number }

Local emergency services English language telephone number: { insert phone number }

Health Insurer 24/7 helpline: { insert phone number }

Local taxi telephone number: { insert phone number }

Local ride hailing app: { Insert local option: Uber / Grab / Didi / Cabify / Bolt etc }

You may also wish to share a few anecdotes where an ambulance might not always be the quickest way to get to a hospital. This is particularly true in cities that are known for having very bad traffic congestion, such as Bangkok. We recognize this might not be possible with all medical emergencies, but you want staff to be prepared for all eventualities. So encourage staff to save any taxi services telephone numbers to their phone, or to have downloaded the best local ride hailing / taxi services app. 

When should staff call an ambulance? Instead of driving or taking a taxi to the hospital for emergency care, there are times when an ambulance may be more appropriate. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Is it life-threatening?
  • Could the condition get worse and become life-threatening on the way to hospital?
  • Could moving the patient cause further injury?
  • Are the skills and equipment of emergency medical personnel needed in this situation?
  • Would distance or traffic conditions cause a dangerous delay in getting to the hospital?

If your company also purchases access to an emergency/SOS service such as International SOS, make sure staff save their telephone number and download their app.

Discuss with staff what the procedure should be for who to contact first in a medical emergency. In most cases the recommendation will be to first get to the nearest medical facility and get the situation stabilized, and then to let the company and insurer know about any ongoing medical emergency as soon as possible (and only once the situation is stabilized).

Tip #4Familiarize staff with nearby healthcare facilities

Better yet, offer transportation to take staff and family on a visit to the best local treatment facilities in your orientation week.

Once staff members have their medical emergency folder, ensuring they are familiar with nearby facilities is the next important step in emergency preparedness. Doing this now will mean you won’t be getting calls in the middle of the night from staff who find themselves in the middle of a medical emergency, unsure of where to go or what to do.

Discuss with new staff what the “go to” medical facility is for out-patient visits. But most importantly find out which hospital is the best option for medical emergencies. Heavily encourage them to go there to have a look at the hospital so they can get an idea of how far it is from their house or apartment. This might seem unnecessary but it’s an important part of having that plan in place ahead of time. 

One World Cover has prepared hospital maps for a number of cities, which our clients include in their staff emergency folders. Get in touch if you would like us to send you a copy of our popular hospital maps for your city.

Tip #5 – Tell staff to prepare an emergency cash fund

Cash is king for getting treatment, and when in an emergency cash can access treatment faster than making calls to your insurer. Let staff know it is their responsibility to always have access to an emergency cash fund or emergency credit card. 

A key and important recommendation in a medical emergency is that the first thing you should be doing every time is to first get to the nearest medical facility and get the situation stabilized.

If that means paying out-of-pocket up-front for any medical treatment that is urgently needed, then that is exactly what staff members should do. As soon as possible (within 24-48 hours), someone can contact their insurance provider to arrange for the bills to start being settled directly with the medical facility or to arrange for them to be transferred to a more appropriate medical facility if ongoing care is needed. 

What’s most important though is letting staff know they should not be delaying treatment to wait for a guarantee of payment to be issued by the insurance provider, which standardly takes at least 24 hours, and even in the best case scenario will still take 1-3 hours to be issued. 

Please note that many health insurers require pre-authorization of emergency evacuation or air ambulance but that doesn’t change the fact that anyone will first need to get the situation stabilized before next steps can be taken.

Tip #6 – Show staff how to set up their phone for medical emergencies

In the event of a medical emergency, it’s likely your phone will be locked. Both iPhones and Android phones have an emergency/SOS function where you can save any important details that can give emergency services a snapshot of your medical information (and save emergency contact information, such as which of your contacts should be contacted in case of emergency) to help you in case of an accident. First familiarize yourself with how this works, then teach new staff how to do this. You can find a handy guide to how to set-up your iPhone’s Medical ID here, and for Android SOS services here.

Tip #7 – Get assistance to tailor your company’s staff orientation

One World Cover has 20 years of experience delivering orientations to international companies. We have orientation session slide templates, and pre-prepared medical emergency folders. Get in touch if you need any assistance preparing your medical emergency folders, or if you want to learn more about how One World Cover can deliver a better health insurance experience to your company without any extra cost to your current insurance spend. 

Just as we shared in our previous article, a little preparation will ensure higher levels of staff satisfaction and peace of mind, and far less reactive situations for staff, leadership and HR. 

Further reading: Why do I lock the door in a new faculty health insurance presentation at schools? And why you should do too!

One World Cover | Health Insurance Specialists If you are concerned that your current health insurance plan might not be sufficient for your needs at this uncertain time and are interested in us reviewing (free-of-charge, no obligation) your insurance cover to ensure you are fully protected – or can be better protected in the future – please get in touch. We are happy to help. In the meantime, stay healthy.

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