Diary of an Insurer: Charles Taylor’s Dr Lynn Gordon

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Dr Lynn Gordon, chief medical officer at Charles Taylor Assistance, is a lifeline for a woman whose husband has died abroad and organises a patient’s long-haul repatriation from Australia to the UK.

Lynn Gordon

Monday

There’s no typical working week, but I know there won’t be a dull, or even a spare, moment today, as I walk the dog before dropping him at day care and driving to the office. 

Our new base near the south coast is quite a draw, especially as it has a great track round the adjacent lake. This suits my preference for walking meetings perfectly.

As chief medical officer, I’m lucky enough to lead a strong and passionate team of doctors, nurses and paramedics. Together, we provide medical assistance and repatriation to thousands of individuals every year, on behalf of travel and international health insurers. Often these patients are in remote destinations, and we work hard to ensure their care is as good as possible. 

I start the day with our operational, medical and travel teams, catching up on the latest cases, and going through any complex reviews of individuals ill or injured abroad. 

Over the weekend, we’ve had a number of discussions about a psychiatric patient we’re repatriating from Asia, and I’m pleased to hear we have a bed lined up for him in a specialist medical unit here in the UK, so he can get the treatment he needs. We’ve also been in touch with his family to keep them updated.

Tuesday

airport474

We’re managing more than 350 serious medical cases at the moment. Some of our customers are in hospitals, others are outpatients with complex needs: the vast majority are overseas. Our job is to make sure they get the right medical care, wherever that may be. This is where our global network of medical and transport providers comes in.

Today, we’re organising a patient’s long-haul repatriation from Australia to the UK, which will need multiple flight practitioners (doctors, nurses and paramedics) because of the long journey. 

Our operational, travel and medical teams are working together; not least organising a hospital bed in the UK, getting a fit to fly certificate from the patient’s treating doctor in Australia and ensuring all the right medications and equipment are taken for the commercial flight. 

Sometimes we’ll need a joint medical and security presence for our transfers. For instance, we recently repatriated a patient to Ukraine with a security escort but we don’t need one this time.

Later in the evening, it’s back to work for a monthly meeting to discuss clinical cases with the doctors on my team, all of whom also work for the NHS. It’s the only time we’re all free.

Wednesday

meeting

It’s an early start for a long drive west with senior colleagues and a meeting with a longstanding travel insurance client. This is a good chance to share feedback from all areas of the company’s travel claims management, and to run through some cost containment data for our medical case management. 

Our cost containment team negotiates with hospitals and transport providers to get the best prices for our insurer clients and the best care for customers. As Charles Taylor Assistance grows, it’s important to keep on top of inflationary and other pressures.

It’s late when we finish, so I head home and catch up with my team on any new developments from the day. 

Thursday

cruise ship ocean

We’ve just managed a helicopter evacuation from a ship in the Pacific for a critically ill patient. He’s been taken to Chile and then onto the capital for advanced surgery, so I check with the team that he’s arrived safely. I’m relieved to hear he has.

At lunchtime (as on other weekdays) we have our team get together. These are good opportunities for knowledge sharing and checking in on each other. Today, we’ve got eight nurses and four doctors on duty, so it’s a dynamic gathering.

Later, when I’m sitting in a steering committee meeting with the CEO and other executives, I look round the table and realise how far gender representation has come since I was at medical school and one of only 20 women in a group of 200. I’m proud to say it’s a very different picture today at this meeting, in my team of doctors and nurses, and throughout Charles Taylor Assistance.

Friday

Paris, France

I’m off to France today to audit one of our air ambulance providers. I often visit hospitals and providers in our global network to check they still follow current and recommended practices, and to ensure good working relationships.

On the trip home, I finalise a training day we’re running tomorrow. This will involve our doctors, nurses and paramedics simulating real life patient situations in an aircraft cabin simulator.

Training is vital to ensure patient safety and the best care. And we never stand still. For instance, our medical team has regular study days with external specialists as well as bespoke  orientation programmes. They also educate our front-line staff about everything from rabies to ski injuries. It’s not unknown for our assistance teams to be seen walking round on crutches to help them understand customers’ needs.  

I end the week talking to a woman whose husband has tragically died abroad, where she knows no one and can’t speak the language. She tells me we’ve been a lifeline for her. 

Every patient or family member like her, who I’ve had a positive impact on, in even the smallest way, reminds me why I first chose this career.

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