One of the most fascinating facts about global medical assistance is the opportunity to be exposed to international environments in the most interesting and personal way.
AP Companies has been servicing clients in all parts of the world since 2007. Be it an expat, leisure traveller, business traveller, professional on assignment at sea or in the air, it all becomes very personal and sensitive when it comes to a person’s health.
Patients are from different geographies and happen to be in various countries when they end up seeking our assistance and medical support, and it is AP’s responsibility to explore, evaluate, study and decide what type of set-up we need locally, in order to provide the best possible medical care access to each of our clients.
Considering the best set-up
Sure enough, it’s not possible to have direct medical provider networks all over the world. Naturally, these are stronger in the areas where you have considerable number of cases or claims, and might be less prevalent in the areas where you have a handful of claims per year.
Partners are typically local to the region – with knowledge, expertise and volumes which complement with our volumes
Despite all the signed formalised agreements with local medical providers, and all the hours invested in negotiations and signatures on those documents, a true ‘working’ network can only be driven by volumes. This helps you to be heard, remembered, and considered a partner by local medical providers, delivering the best-value medical care to your members.
Even if volumes are not an issue, we still need to consider what the best setup would be for particular groups of members being assisted in a certain country or location.
Following the money
While AP Companies has a head office in Malaga, Spain, there are over 10 offices worldwide, and over 45 representatives in various countries. Our global expansion and opening of offices is very much driven by client needs and requests. It happens mostly in a very organic way – when we have a close and successful cooperation with our client in certain countries, and they expand into new territories, we will follow to support their needs.
The type of clients being served, as well as the level of presence we have in the region, would ultimately determine whether we would need to open a new regional office locally, or whether members could be serviced from one of our existing service centres.
Appropriate level of provision
AP Companies relies heavily on our global, professional provider network. In the event of increased numbers of travellers to a new, remote destination, our long-term regional partners will help us deliver a solution for our client. These partners are typically local to the region – with knowledge, expertise and volumes which complement with our volumes – and who enjoy preferred rates and savings, driven by combined volumes.
On the other hand, if we are talking about groups of expats on assignment, living in situ alongside their families – who require planned medical care – or local families of an insured professional, then most times we opt for opening our own local office and having a presence on the ground.
That requires time and effort, and a certain level of investment from our side – but at the end of the day, it helps us develop our own competence and take care of the insured members in the best possible way.
These clients would normally require call handling in the local language; access for routine and planned medical care, as well as emergencies; and the ability to expand our medical provider network upon their request, beyond the existing network, etc. And this is what we truly enjoy doing – building our direct medical provider network, based on the needs and requests of clients.
Familiar faces mean less work
However, one might wonder, why would a client want AP Companies to open the office in a new location, when there could be plenty of existing local partners on the ground already, who would have networks readily available, as well as local call centres up and running? These days, long-term cooperation and trust play a significant role when choosing partners for locations. Having an existing partnership in place for many years gives businesses more confidence when developing together in new regions.
While standards and protocols of case management are shared across all our offices, we still need to adapt those to local rules and regulations
At the same time, for the existing partner, there is no need for due diligence – such as IT security checks, data protection analysis, quality check controls when expanding cooperation to new territories – as this has all been done already. This saves a lot of time and administrative resources on both sides.
Adapting and growing
Once the decision to set up an office in a new country has been made, we start to build our direct local network of medical providers – or expanding it, if one already exists – as well as setting up our operations on the ground.
While standards and protocols of case management are shared across all our offices, we still need to adapt those to local rules and regulations, and sometimes even traditions and needs. We would always have one of our AP senior members on the ground for the first eight to 12 months, to oversee operations and ensure the implementation of AP standards and protocols. We strive to maintain the same high level of service across the board, regardless of the location.
Usually, offices get busy very quickly, as more of our clients start utilising AP services in new countries. This is when medical care services become very personal. Assisted in the local language, understanding local infrastructures, medical standards, needs and expectations – this is what members want to see. At the same time, all those local features are handled professionally and can be communicated in a standardised and understandable way to our clients – insurance companies.
Setting up a local office is always a time-consuming and expensive project – hence the careful analysis and evaluation. But at the end of the day, this creates a lot of opportunities for expansion and development, helping us to deliver ‘personal medical care’ to our clients.