Guest: Ben Wilson
Presenter: Wayne Bucklar
Guest Bio: Ben Wilson CEO holds a Bachelor of Business Degree from the University of South Australia and Diploma. Ben brings to MTC experience in the Airline, Airport, Travel and Health recruitment and consulting sectors. Ben is responsible for the day to day strategic direction and business development of MTC on a global basis. He co-founded the Medical Travel Companions with Chief Medical Officer A/Prof Dr Matt Hooper who holds academic title at James Cook University where he was integrally involved in the development of postgraduate aeromedical retrieval education programs.
Segment overview: For today’s Health Supplier Segment, we’ll be learning about a unique service catering to those who love to travel but are hindered by their medical concerns. Medical Travel Companions CEO Ben Wilson is here with us today to share intersting information about their company. They assist people with their travel needs from a local domestic or complex international journey. Companions are experienced Nanny’s, Nurses or Paramedics and have undertaken a rigorous selection and credentialing process. They have a range of knowledge and experience including: Children, Assisting families, Aged Care, Disability, Paediatric and Mental Health.
Health Professional Radio
Wayne Bucklar: You’re listening to Health Professional Radio. My name is Wayne Bucklar and my guest today is Ben Wilson, the managing director of Medical Travel Companions. Ben is the managing director of a unique service and this morning I’m going to get him to tell us what it is that he does. Ben welcome to Health Professional Radio.
Ben Wilson: Thanks very much Wayne. Yeah, in a very short sentence, mostly Medical Travel Companions enables people to travel that would not otherwise have that opportunity to travel. So it’s really about helping people to achieve their travel dreams and we dispatch anything from a travel nanny through to a paramedic or a nurse to people who have declared they’re “fit for travel” that just need that extra re-assurance or assistance on a long journey or could be a short journey. So we have luckily enough we’ve just secured a contract with a major airline, the Singapore Airlines to market our services through Singapore Airlines but also through Abercrombie & Kent travel agency group. So that in a nut shell sums it up pretty quickly.
W: Okay, now Ben a lot of our listeners are health professionals working in hospitals. This is not a medical ambulance or a medical retrieval service, isn’t it?
B: No Wayne, it’s not. We only take very limited clinical responsibility. So a lot of our work is we do work for hospitals, bring people that are recovering from surgery or an illness and they are declared “fit for travel.” We will take them home on a repatriation job, so all of our people obviously are registered nurses or paramedics or even obviously as I said before travel nannies. But yeah, we don’t want to be seen as an air ambulance service and we only take very limited clinical responsibility. So a lot of our work is sometimes for insurance companies or hospitals … all over the world and they need people repatriated back to their hometown. And obviously they need to be fit for travel so the clinical responsibility we take is anything really from administrating prescribed medication or something from an anti-pain or the other day we do the job for someone who sprained their knee, needed to be returned home. So, yeah pretty, pretty simple hand hold type level.
W: And I guess these days it’s fairly common to have patients discharged from hospital who don’t have a family friend to travel with them, particularly given that more and more of us are living as single people. I guess it’s a sort of service where if normally you would just say to that someone leaving hospital, “Have you got someone to travel with you? If you don’t have this is a commercial service that you can buy to fill that need.”
B: Exactly right, yeah. It’s a commercial retail service. It’s an online service through medicaltravelcompanions.com, they can make a booking directly online and then we’ll make sure that we assess them that they’re physically fit for travel and quite often we get a letter of discharge from hospital or their medical practitioner to ensure that they are fit to travel. And then one of our companions will collect them from that hospital or their home or meet them at the airport and literally help them through the airport and on the plane, travel with them on the plane and deliver them safely to their loved ones. So that can be quite a lot, hassle free for the customers, as well as a quite often as you said before family haven’t got the time to fly over to pick them up and bring them home. So that’s where we get a lot of our work obviously by you know okay, go on…
W: You’re listening to Health Professional Radio with Wayne Bucklar. I’m in conversation with Ben Wilson, the managing director of Medical Travel Companions. A commercial service that assist people with their travel needs. What about the frail elderly Ben? Do they make a component of your customer base?
B: Yeah, they do. They’ve obviously gonna be eligible for travel insurance and be declared as “fit for travel” by their medical practitioner. However there are a lot of people who maybe want to come out from … go from Australia back to perhaps a place like London or Hong Kong for a celebration, and that person to save their loved ones flying all the way out to pick them up, we can dispatch one of our companions to travel with them through the airport. That could be for a Christmas day celebration or it could be for Easter or a special occasion, so or it could on a three week cruise ship. And that’s obviously what we’re doing with Abercrombie & Kent who’s the large travel agency group. So yeah that’s elderly obviously the over 65 demographic is getting bigger and bigger and we’ve recognized this on a global scale. It’s increasing from 14 to 25% of the global population over the next 30 years so that’s a pretty, pretty large demographic and a large market that it’s only gonna get bigger and busier. And there are a lot of people out there that can afford the service like us but they just need that reassurance in the system and that our services having a qualified clinical person assisting in that process is that gives them a lot of reassurance.
W: Ben, as I think I mentioned previously a lot of our listeners work in in acute care in both aged facilities and in acute care hospital as doctors, nurses, and allied health professionals. What’s the message you’d like them to take away from having heard you today?
B: I think that there is now a professional service with professional clinicians that can act as a qualified companions to assist people who are fit for travel but need reassurance and need assistance when travelling on a long or a short journey. So we have well credentialed, well qualified professionals who can do this and give assistance and that really enables people to realize their travel dreams than they wouldn’t otherwise be able to. And it’s all on commercial aircraft so it’s relatively inexpensive. So our pricing starts off at $700 per 24 hour period and ranges up. So we have three separate levels, which is on our website at www.medicaltravelcompanions.com.
W: Now I have to say here I am always getting into trouble for not giving people enough warnings about phone numbers and website. So fair warning pencils ready, that website was medicaltravelcompanions.com. Now Ben in every industry there are misconceptions and it’s my favorite question to ask. What are the misconceptions in your business that drives you nuts and keep you awake at night?
B: I think a lot of our customers or our affiliate partners – this is a recently new business – and I think as soon as they see the word ‘medical’, they say” they think that we are an air ambulance support business which we are not and we don’t really want to be. However we are a professional service offering professional clinicians to assist as companions to these individuals. And that’s a really a big point of differentiation, there’s no one really operating globally like what we are. And we’re originally a small business and there has been a whole lot of interest by key affiliate partners, like the big airlines and large travel agency groups and cruise companies and insurance companies, so yeah.
W: I can certainly see it would make life easier for an airline if they’ve got passengers who are accompanied.
B: Yes. I think well, it’s a win-win really for an airline, for a travel agent group or a cruise company … there is an additional seat and they’re tapping into an aging demographic that people over 65 who would not otherwise be traveling and now are because of our companion service. So I think this is only, we’ve really only launched the business 12 months ago in June 2014 so it’s relatively new but the feedback that we’ve been getting is very positive so I think we’re on a winner but it will take time to spread the word.
W: That’s always nice to know and I hope we can help with spreading the word a little. Is there a formal referral process that clinicians need to go through or is it just a case of advising people that you’re service exists?
B: I think just referring to the website Wayne, it’s the best way to do it. We do have a rebate system that we have set up for large affiliate partners. So on every booking there can be a rebate potentially or clinicians but obviously that needs to be some volume for that. So always I can set commercial arrangements in that order. So yup, so the best way really is to refer straight to our website and to make that initial inquiry and within 24 … we’ll come back to you within 12 hours.
W: Ben Wilson managing director of Medical Travel Companions, it’s been a pleasure having you on this morning. Time has defeated us once again but I’m sure there are a lot of stories that you could tell about some of the successes that you’ve had but we might leave that for another opportunity.
B: That would be a pleasure Wayne, thank you.
W: This morning thank you for being with us. This is Wayne Bucklar on Health Professional Radio. If you’ve missed our interview, there’s a transcript on our website at www.hpr.fm or you can also hear the interview either on SoundCloud or on YouTube. This is Health Professional Radio.