Sep 12, 2018

Inside Allianz Global Assistance’s Virtual Emergency Room

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As a veteran travel journalist of nearly 30 years, Brian Major (pictured above) had flown internationally hundreds of times and visited more than 50 countries. When he stepped off his plane in Panama City for a media tour in 2015, he thought it was like any ordinary trip.

But as he neared a taxi, Brian coughed and suddenly felt as if a balloon had exploded in his chest. After rushing to the nearest hospital, an x-ray revealed that he’d suffered a collapsed right lung. The journalist felt alone, anxious, and could only communicate to his doctors in broken language.

He was fortunate that, thanks to a chance conversation with an Allianz employee only weeks earlier, Brian had decided to purchase his first ever travel insurance plan, a one-year “professional traveler” policy, for a couple hundred dollars. He contacted Allianz Global Assistance and we acted quickly to guarantee payments to the hospital for treatment. His wife Karen also flew in to be with him.

After a procedure to stabilize his condition, our medical team consulted with Brian and his doctors and determined that he should be evacuated by air ambulance to Miami for surgery to repair his lung. His Allianz policy not only covered his emergency medical treatment with $10,000 but also paid up to $20,000 for the emergency medical transportation. Brian was flown back to the U.S. where his surgery was a success. He would spend the next few days recovering in Miami before returning to his home in Brooklyn. Watch Brian share his personal story in this video.

Global Assistance Whenever Disaster Strikes

Most people would say, “that’ll never happen to me.” But it’s more common than you think. In 2016 alone, we responded to 3,600 medical-related assistance calls, which involved 500 medical emergency evacuations. Most cases are accidental falls and bone fractures, heart attacks, strokes, and traffic accidents. One minute they’re a tourist enjoying the vacation of their dreams, and the next they’re thrown into the care of a foreign country’s healthcare system.

When ailing travelers call into Allianz Global Assistance’s 24-hour assistance hotline, they’re often scared, frustrated, angry or anxious. So from that moment on, our people lift the burden off our customers by responding calmly, gaining their trust, and literally taking care of everything.

For Kim Seay, our Director of Assistance, her previous experience as an ER and trauma nurse is extremely valuable. She most recently served as chief flight nurse for a commercial medical escort company. She’s seen it all and often compares how her team operates to a virtual emergency room.

Assistance specialists triage the situation by phone, and each insured is assigned a case manager who advocates for them, handles paperwork, and maintains communications with close family members. Medical cases are assessed by the medical response team of about 20 RNs with five or more years in the field, often with ER experience. Without our team able to physically see the insured member, we gather medical information and diagnoses from patients and the medical facility’s doctors. We begin piecing together a full picture of the person’s physical health and state of mind.

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Photo: Brian Major was evacuated from Panama City by air ambulance.

We make sure they’re in the best medical facility in the area, one of nearly 2,000 hospitals we’ve pre-evaluated in 130 developing countries, or relocate them if necessary. Our company’s global footprint gives our team the support of 34 offices worldwide along with more than 110 contracted ground agents who can assist with logistics in other destinations. In many cases, we can provide cashless service by sending the hospital a letter of guarantee in lieu of out-of-pocket payments to initiate medical care. Our team continues to monitor our member’s condition, ensuring they receive the best medical advice and care possible, and starts to determine the best way to get them back home.

Doing the Right Thing for Customers

“In each case, we have to put ourselves in their shoes to understand what they’re going through. We don’t want their family to have to worry about any details,” Kim says. “In some unfortunate cases, their family or friends have already returned back home and we’re their only lifeline. That’s why it’s so important that we hire our associates for heart.”

Each day one of six specialized physicians employed by the University of Virginia reviews medical cases and remains on call 24/7 to oversee important decisions involving treatments and emergency evacuations. If a patient’s condition worsens or they require specialized medical care not available locally, we arrange emergency transportation back to the U.S., like in Brian’s case. If an air ambulance is required, an evacuation can cost as much as $100,000 to $200,000 depending on the location.1 Without travel protection, the financial burden alone could be devastating.

“What I love about working at Allianz is that, no matter what it costs us, we always make the best decision for our customers,” Kim observes. “The most rewarding moments are when you get to tell someone in recovery, ‘we’re bringing you home today.’ Hearing those words, they’re so relieved sometimes it brings them to tears.”

Brian Major recovered fully and is back to traveling the world. He’s not shy to tell people, “My last-minute decision to buy travel insurance turned out to be a life saver. I’ll never leave home again without it, and I recommend that anyone who travels do the same.”

Read Brian’s full story: Travel Insurance Saves The Day For A Guy Who Should Know Better

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Terms, conditions and exclusions apply.
Insurance benefits underwritten by BCS Insurance Company or Jefferson Insurance Company, depending on insured's state of residence. Plan(s) may not be available in all jurisdictions. Allianz Global Assistance and Allianz Travel Insurance are brands of AGA Service Company. AGA Service Company is the licensed producer and administrator of these plans and an affiliate of Jefferson Insurance Company. The insured shall not receive any special benefit or advantage due to the affiliation between AGA Service Company and Jefferson Insurance Company. Non-­Insurance benefits/products are provided and serviced by AGA Service Company. Consumer may be responsible for charges incurred from outside vendors for assistance or concierge services. Contact AGA Service Company at (800­) 284-­8300 or 9950 Mayland Drive, Richmond, VA 23233 or customerservice@allianzassistance.com.

Citations:

1. “Five myths about medical evacuations,” USA Today.

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