Improving Access to Healthcare for Expat Workers

New technology can help mobile workers get advice about non-emergency medical care.
By: | October 30, 2018 • 3 min read
telemedicine and expat workers

With $1.33 trillion in global business-travel spending and more than 66.2 million expatriate workers worldwide in 2017, the globally mobile workforce is expanding—with few signs of slowing down.

As a result, experts say, HR leaders from multinational companies are increasingly focused on supporting expat and traveling employees and their dependents to drive engagement, retention and productivity—with better access to healthcare an important focus to hit those objectives.

Among the offerings are telehealth solutions including mobile apps, video conferencing and phone consultations that provide employees and their families convenient access to quality non-emergency care, say the experts.


When employers add telehealth solutions, says Rhonda Peterson, associate director of global services and solutions at Willis Towers Watson, it potentially translates into less time off work for affected employees. Employees or family members, she adds, can receive the care they need quickly, delivering the peace of mind they need to get on with their jobs and lives.

“General medical advice can be addressed within a couple days, as opposed to waiting weeks to get that doctor’s appointment,” she says.

Kathleen O’Driscoll, vice president for the global business group at the National Business Group on Health, says telehealth can provide an effective solution to the challenge HR faces with expat employees, whether their families relocate with them or not.

Also, a shift within some companies for more international relocations, instead of expat assignments, poses another challenge, according to O’Driscoll. For example, in the expatriate arrangement a global health plan is offered. In an international relocation, the employee typically is placed under the new host location local plan.

“This causes a gap,” she says. “Local plans rarely have coverage in other countries to meet the needs of the trailing dependent [the ones who do not relocate] and staying on their local home plan is not an option either. Companies have been discussing how to address this gap and the potential role telehealth could play.”

Teladoc Health Inc., a company that provides integrated clinical solutions such as telehealth and expert medical services, and AI and analytics, recently launched Teladoc Global Care to meet those challenges, according to Dan Trencher, the company’s senior vice president of product and corporate strategy. He explains that Global Care enables multinational employers to provide expats and travelers with a single solution for convenient, user-friendly access to quality care, regardless of geographic location.

“Navigating an unfamiliar health system while traveling heightens uncertainty and stress for employees and can result in higher costs for plan sponsors,” Trencher says, adding that with this launch, Teladoc’s goal is to transform how people access and experience healthcare around the world.

Delivered within the broader Teladoc mobile app (used in the U.S.), Global Care facilitates communication with a doctor who speaks the individual’s language but also is experienced and trained to listen to each employee’s situation with cultural sensitivity—guiding the person through the local health system as needed. Plus, the 24/7, non-emergency service is worldwide and care is delivered in more than 20 languages including English, Spanish, Portuguese, French, Hungarian, Polish, Mandarin, Cantonese, Korean, Thai, Malay, Hindi, Japanese and Arabic. Global Care offers a per-user fee as an add-on to Teladoc’s domestic telehealth service.