Marm Assistance is one of the leading assistance companies in the EMEA region. Their Medical Sales and International Accounts Manager, Ms Ece Acar Demirkok handles international medical insurance partnerships and medical sales development for Marm Assistance with over 15 years of experience in medical and travel service industry.
Ms Demirkok shares her insights about the future of the medical assistance industry as well as the challenges that assistance industry faces in the EMEA region.
Get valuable insights from her full interview below.
A: Marm is the assistance services provider located in Turkey with an effective reach to Europe, Middle East, Africa and Central Asia. Since its establishment in 1986, Marm placed itself as one of the top qualified “business partner” for medical assistance, roadside management, health tourism, travel and legal issues for major international travel insurance and assistance companies of the world - mainly in Turkey, Caucasians, Middle East and North Africa.
Marm is home to 120 full-time personnel, a state-of-the-art 24/7 Alarm Center with ten languages, an in-house team of physicians, nurses, social workers, mechanics, pilots, logistical experts, communication specialists and support personnel and a volume of around 100,000 cases per year.
A: In Europe, the already well-known challenge in the industry we are also primarily coming across is the lack of ICU bed availability. This has particularly been noted for the UK and to a lesser extent in other Western European countries e.g. Denmark and Ireland. Otherwise, it is a relatively trouble-free region including Central and Eastern Europe owing to our strong local connections.
The Middle East has been a much more dynamic region for us in the context of challenges we have come across and overcome. The regional core has always been the United Arab Emirates with Dubai as its natural nucleus. Marm local offices there as well as in Tehran have been instrumental in overcoming many operational hurdles.
The overall challenge spectrum starts from the extremely difficult, conflict-torn countries like Syria, Yemen, Libya, Iraq and Afghanistan, where we can never be too sure as to how the situation has changed from the previous day and therefore; if the same assistance options can still be relied upon. But over the years we have persisted with our service network maintenance plus development efforts, taken on each case as a new trial and have had notable success at least as far as Iraq and Afghanistan are concerned. The other three continue to be, relatively speaking, a shot in the dark.
In stable countries in the region, assistance has mostly been challenge free particularly in the private tertiary care centres located in the major cities. But when it comes to the State or peripheral healthcare providers, legislations impeding direct billing arrangements with foreign-based payers and at times, severely difficult to establish communication channels are the usual respective gridlocks. Again, each case is a fresh opportunity to break through and make further inroads with a better understanding of local cultures and preferences in order to further fine tune our approach.
Talking about Africa and considering it’s expansiveness, we tend to follow the geographical conventions and classify it into three sub-regions: North Africa; with Egypt being the most challenge free, except of course when it comes to cost containment time and world war three breaks out. We have won much more battles than lost so far I can assure you. Sub-Saharan Africa and Southern Africa; where with some local support, operations have usually gone smoothly albeit comparatively slower in the former.
A: We can list some of the topics that have recently trended in the assistance industry and attracted our attention as follows:
We are closely monitoring the innovations and developments in the assistance business in order to serve our valuable partners better. In line with these developments and innovations, we determine our goals and optimise our objectives. Our key mission is to assist our partners as if we are in their shoes.
A: We are strict followers of IPMI bulletins. We continuously improve our relation and cooperation with the contacts in the network.
A: While we will endeavour to take cautious growth steps in the region, we will continue to entrench our position in our core business of medical assistance and roadside management. Detailed planning including assessment of all possible outcomes needs extensive experience provided by dedicated, experienced pool of professionals.
Another area which we believe will deliver value to our customers is the products and solutions being developed in conjunction with our IT department and project development team. Our goal is to blend technology with our services for offering tailor-made products with higher added values to our customer. In our new office at Airport Plaza, with 2,700 square meters, multiple trainings can be performed simultaneously.
In order to facilitate a faster and more reliable management of crisis situations and to keep our business partners informed of the developments in the region, Marm has established the Marm Safety & Security Desk with the primary focus on travel risk assessment and rapid response for Turkey and the region.
Going forward, reaching out for the most accurate information, healthy analysis of the crises with the group of local and international experts from safety, diplomacy and security and transferring the information collected to our partners, has become one of Marm’s priorities.