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Despite benefits for staff and employers, pre-travel health screening is being under-utilised

Becoming ill while posted overseas or on a business trip can be an uncomfortable and frightening experience. It could even cause an overseas assignment to fail. Frustratingly many illnesses experienced by expats and business travellers could be foreseen or possibly prevented if health screening had been undertaken before travel. Despite the benefits it offers both staff and employers, health screening before sending staff overseas is currently under-utilised.

How health screening benefits staff

Health screening can help to identify new and pre-existing illnesses as well as those an individual may be at higher risk of developing. Once identified, steps can be taken to prevent or manage these appropriately. This is particularly valuable for staff posted or travelling overseas, who may be unfamiliar with or uncomfortable accessing local healthcare. This becomes critical for staff who are travelling to less developed or more remote locations. 

Many people travel without considering pre-existing conditions. A regularly prescribed medication in the UK may not be readily available or legal in the new host country. Health screening protects the employee as suitable healthcare can be investigated before travel. Any medication regimes can be evaluated to check that the medicines are available at the destination and suitable alternatives identified if not. This allows conditions to be successfully managed with minimal disruption or detriment.

 Where a higher risk has been identified screening gives individuals the opportunity to take preventative measures.

Health screening is good for employers too

For the employer, health screening enables the company to identify trends across the organisation and manage them proactively. For example, workplace stress is a common cause of claims and screening allows a company to spot trends in particular locations or among particular groups of staff, giving them the chance to intervene. There are many wellness programmes available, from one-off workshops to ongoing annual fitness challenges, which support the prevention or reduction of ill health.

Screening allows an employer to insure based on real data about its own employees rather than have premiums set based on averages which may not be an accurate reflection of its needs. It is an important consideration for all companies, large and small. It can reduce costs and support decision making when travel insurance options are being considered.

Sarah Dennis, head of international for The Health Insurance Group said:

“Employers should make far greater use of health screening before sending staff overseas as it protects both the individual and the company and can help to manage costs.”