Supporting expat health: is it high touch versus high tech?

Among the wealth of digital technology supporting relocation and international assignments is a growing range of innovative products to promote the health and wellbeing of assignees and their families.

Supporting expat health: is it high touch versus high tech?
Digital technologies have enormous potential to provide crucial support for globally mobile employees and their families as they relocate, and that their importance is growing as the demographics of the globally mobile workforce change. So says John Kaye, managing director of Cigna Global Health Benefits, Europe.“For instance,” Mr Kaye goes on, “our own research at Cigna reveals not only that the number of female expats is growing but also that employees relocating are getting older, with more than half between the ages of 35 and 54. We need to react to these trends and the different challenges they represent.”

Pre-assignment preparation

One of the areas in which Cigna currently employs innovative technologies is at the pre-assignment stage. “We use an online questionnaire,” explains John Kaye, “to create a bespoke approach for each individual and their families, designed to build up a detailed picture of health needs and circumstances, to ensure we have the relevant information to make the move as smooth as we possibly can.”Technology can give employees peace of mind, he adds, and is also proving invaluable once they have relocated. Tele-health is an area in which Cigna believes there is huge potential to offer new products and services, as providing employees and their families with medical consultations by video conference to ensure they have round-the-clock access to healthcare support, wherever they are, and in a language they understand, can be crucial.Mr Kaye expects the mobile and wearables channels to continue to play an increasingly important role in terms of the globally mobile workforce. For example, he says, GPS-enabled devices can provide a constant stream of information about employees’ activity levels, and link to apps that offer tailored advice on healthy living.

High touch versus high tech?

John Kaye believes that, when it comes to supporting employees who are moving abroad, customers want access to the latest technologies combined with a human element.“We see technology as an enabler of increased and bespoke support rather than the key to providing that support,” explains Mr Kaye. “It can help us identify someone’s needs, but we then meet those needs through personal contact.“Our pre-assignment services are an example of how technology and the personal touch often interact. Families complete an online questionnaire that provides detailed information about their health and well-being.“Issues are then followed up in a meeting with a nurse, who provides advice on how to manage the issue while on assignment. We’ve found that people often stay in touch with the nurse throughout their time overseas, because a relationship of trust has been built.”The Summer 2017 issue of Relocate magazine includes expert advice on how firms can protect the mental health of their overseas workers, international assignees and relocatees. And don’t miss our coverage of the joint winners of Relocate’s Technological Innovation award, MoveAssist and PwC.
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Read more about current issues facing global mobility professionals in the Summer issue of our magazine
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