International SOS

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International SOS is the world's largest medical and travel security services firm, which count nearly two-thirds of the Fortune Global 500 companies as clients.[1] International SOS specialises in medical assistance, travel security advice and information, emergency services, healthcare, evacuation and repatriation services. The company was founded in 1985 to provide medical, travel security advice and assistance to organisations with people living and travelling abroad. International SOS operates from over 1,000 locations in 90 countries and take around 5 million assistance calls every year.[2]

International SOS focuses on helping organisations and their people reduce exposure to, and mitigate, risks while travelling abroad.[3] Their services include pre-travel information, pre-travel health programmes, travel safety education, advice, medical equipment and assistance services.[4]

International SOS
International SOS clinic staff moving a patient into their clinic in Lagos, Nigeria

It provides a range of services all over the world including assessing medical and security risks, advising on preventive programmes and assisting with emergency response for travellers, expatriates and their dependents. These activities are provided via 26 assistance centres including Bali, Beijing, Dubai, Jakarta, London, Paris, Philadelphia, Singapore, Sydney and Tokyo. These centres are staffed by physicians, nurses, operations managers, multilingual coordinators and logistics support personnel.

International SOS is a privately owned company. They work with educational organisations,[5] corporate clients (including the majority of the Fortune Global 500[1]), non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and governmental organisations.[6]

International SOS was one of the first companies offering traveller tracking services. TravelTracker, their flagship technology product, monitors the travel of 3 million people, helping organisations locate their workers in a crisis.[7] TravelTracker is a component of International SOS' travel risk management programme, also including risk assessment, client advice, and providing assistance when needed.

International SOS
International SOS logo with tagline.png
Founded 1985
Headquarters London, UK and Singapore
No. of locations Global
Founders Arnaud Vaissié and Dr Pascal Rey-Herme
Employees 11,000
Slogan Worldwide reach. Human touch[8]


International SOS has dual headquarters in Singapore and London.[9] Its operations are divided into six regions: America, Europe, EEMEA (East Europe, Middle East and Africa), Indonesia, Asia and Australia. All its assistance Centres have Global ISO 9001:2015 certification.[10]

It also has a global network of external service providers including specialist doctors, hospitals, ambulances, charter aircraft and security personnel. The centres are staffed by physicians, nurses, operations managers, multilingual coordinators and logistics support personnel.


The organisation has approximately 11,000 employees worldwide, of which 1,400 are full-time doctors and 200 are security specialists. International SOS has a global network of 26 Assistance Centres staffed by physicians, nurses, operations managers, multilingual coordinators and logistics support personnel.

Joint Venture with Control Risks[edit]

International SOS and Control Risks formed a joint venture in 2008 to deliver travel security advice and assistance to clients. Control Risks is an independent, global risk consultancy specialising in political, integrity and security risk.

Aeromedical Services[edit]

International SOS operate air ambulances services out of South Africa, Singapore, China, Papua New Guinea, and the Middle East. International SOS airlifted 18,000 emergency cases in 2008.[11]

Their scheduled airline and air ambulance transports services are certified to ISO 9001:2008.[12]

International SOS is a member and contributor to Flight Safety Foundation’s BARS (Basic Aviation Risk Standard).[13]

Air ambulances are used across borders and islands such as rescuing Singaporeans affected by the Sabah earthquake in Malaysia.[14]


1985: Pascal Rey-Herme, a doctor, and Arnaud Vaissié, a businessman, founded a company (then called AEA International) in 1985 to provide medical assistance services to expatriate communities and international organisations operating in Southeast Asia. Over the following decade, the company grew from its base in Singapore and Indonesia into a pan-Asian corporation, with operations in Hong Kong, Australia, Japan and mainland China. Key clients included oil and gas companies with operations in remote locations.

1998: AEA International acquired International SOS Assistance, a Group of Corporations founded in 1974 by Claude Giroux a Canadian entrepreneur, creating the largest medical assistance company in the world.[1] Initially, it was known as AEA International SOS, and was renamed International SOS in 1999. The acquisition extended the company into the United States, Russia and Eastern Europe and eventually Africa and the Middle East. Travel safety and security services were added to offerings.

Growth and Acquisitions[edit]

The company’s growth partly resulted from a number of joint ventures and acquisitions, including:



  • Acquired a majority stake in Abermed, a UK-based provider of occupational health and remote medical services to the energy sector
  • Opened Latin American division


  • Developed a strategic alliance with RMSI, an international rapid deployment medical and rescue service, with activities in Iraq, Afghanistan, Sudan, Somalia and Pakistan


  • Merged with VIPdesk, a North American provider of concierge services, customer care and loyalty programs
  • Acquired the medical supplies division of SMI (Service Médical International)
  • Further expanded its medical distribution services through acquisition of L.E. West, EMC, Shenton Pharmacy and Nutracare Pharma
  • Launched a joint venture in Brazil with International Health Care


  • Acquired EMSM, a concierge and lifestyle company in South Korea
  • International SOS moved its UK headquarters to Chiswick Park, West London


  • Launched the Aspire Lifestyles brand, offering loyalty, concierge and assistance services
  • Acquired Norwegian companies SBHT, KBHT, Haugaland HMS and Nordic Medical Services (NMS)
  • Partnered with Aerosafety, a medical and aviation safety equipment company in Brazil


  • Launched Response Services Australia, a provider of emergency response, rescue and recovery services
  • Entered a partnership with AMAS medical Services in India
  • Acquired Aeromed in Mozambique
  • Created strategic partnership with Western Africa Rescue Association (WARA), a clinic and medical services company in West Africa


  • Celebrated its 30th anniversary with the launch of a new logo, brand identity and website.[17]


  • Strategic Partnership with Everbridge
  • Partnership with Uber for Business
  • Launch of International SOS Foundation Duty of Care Awards


  • Duty of Care integration with Rocketrip
  • Joint Venture partnership with Global Excel
  • Joint Venture partnership with Iqarus
  • Launch of Travel Tracker Incident Support
  • Launch of world’s first emotional support service for the mobile workforce
  • Acquisition of International Health Solutions[18]
  • Aspire Lifestyle, an International SOS company, expands into Turkey
  • Launch of digital consultation service from Aberdeen Health Centre
  • Launch of International SOS Foundation Duty of Care Summit

Milestones and Significant Events[edit]

International SOS has provided medical advice, assistance and travel safety services during and after a number of major incidents.[19]

1998 Evacuation assistance provided during the Jakarta unrest.[19]

2000 Began to provide client support during major sporting events, later including the Olympic Games in Sydney (2000), Athens (2004), Beijing (2008) and London (2012); and the 2010 Asian Games.[20]

2001 Travel locator services were added to the online platform.

2003 Provided medical assistance during the SARS outbreak, including utilising a portable medical isolation unit to transport infected patients.[21]

2004 Led emergency medical and security responses to the Boxing Day Tsunami, and provided longer term assistance, including the creation of the North Sumatra Relief Fund.[22]

2005 Medical assistance given in response to Hurricane Wilma.[23]

2006 International SOS’s medical transports became the first direct flights between mainland China and Taiwan to be flown since 1949.[24]

2008 TravelTracker launched, a travel tracking service that combined the best of Control Risks' and International SOS' existing services.[25] The award-winning application now tracks more than 2.5 million travellers per year.[26] Provided advice and assistance following the Mumbai terrorist attacks and helped those directly impacted by the event.[27]

2010 Dispatched a team to coordinate evacuations immediately following the aftermath of the Haiti earthquake.[28] Began to offer preventive programmes to help companies meet duty of care obligations to employees travelling and working abroad.[29] This initiative led to the distribution of medical and security information and alerts online, and developing travel preparation and risk mitigation programmes.[7][30]


  • Coordinated evacuations following the Japanese earthquake and tsunami.[31]
  • During the Arab Spring helped clients track and evacuate employees from different locations[32]
  • Launched the International SOS Assistance App – the Android and iPhone iOS mobile phone apps. The mobile app connects business travellers to the global response capabilities of International SOS, including a one-click dial for help from the nearest International SOS Assistance Centre, instant access to the latest location-specific travel alerts, and real-time health and security advice


  • During the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, International SOS provided Medical advice, equipment, and educational resources were provided during the outbreak. An Ebola public-service announcement was also produced and aired throughout West and East Africa.[33][34][35]
  • A team was deployed to the Pacific island nation Vanuatu after Cyclone Pam.[36]


  • Assisted and provided emergency medical evacuations services for the victims of the Sabah earthquake in Malaysia.[37]
  • Provided evacuation advice and assistance to clients during the Yemen crisis.[38]
  • Launched updated version of Pandemic Information, an online portal featuring information on, and analysis of, emerging infectious disease outbreaks.[39]
  • Became first company in the world to be certified in the delivery of Telehealth services[40] with international standard ISO/TS 13131:2014 ED1. One of the benefits of the ISO/TS 13131 standard is the provision of quality telehealth services ensuring seamless cooperation globally, interoperability of systems and a reliably high standard of delivery. This standard allows for increased diagnostic certainty, maximising the opportunity to confirm a correct diagnosis and initiate appropriate treatment early on. It also promotes continuity of care and expedites clinical care pathways by utilising telehealth intervention, being especially relevant for patients in more remote locations or locations with reduced health care provision.
  • Produced 2016 Travel Risk Map, the industry’s first integrated medical and travel security risk map[41]
  • Named the number one preferred provider for personal security and medical emergency services in the benchmark study, Policy in Practice 2015: Business Travelers by the Forum for Expatriate Management (FEM)[42]


  • Advised clients and travellers about 2015/2016 Zika virus epidemic and how to reduce their exposure to the virus[43]
  • Provided advice to public about travel safety following attacks in Paris and Brussels[44]
  • Produced 2017 Travel Risk Map and accompanying Ipsos MORI ‘Risks & Realities’ study. The study revealed the perceptions of business decision-makers
  • Enhanced Travel Tracker solution launched
  • Makiko Yui, MD M.P.H Received Marco Polo Prize for Medicine


  • Supports Business Leaders at the 2017 Fortune Global Forum
  • Produced 2018 Travel Risk Map and accompanying Ipsos MORI ‘Business Resilience’ study. Travel Risk Map enhancements included social media sharing buttons.
  • Achieved ISO/IEC 27001 Certificate for Information Security Management in relation to the development and support of all International SOS digital medical and travel security services.
  • Becomes a Gold Member of the Business Continuity Institute


  • Dr Oriol Mitja study into Yaws eradication published in The Lancet.
  • Chatham House and International SOS sign partnership agreement
  • Celebrated 10th anniversary of the alliance with Control Risks
  • Launch of Medsea Marine Medical Assistance Chinese services


International SOS has received the following recognition and awards:

2009 Arnaud Vaissié awarded Ernst and young Entrepreneur of The Year Award[45]

2012 The publication ‘Duty of Care Benchmarking Study’ won ‘Best Research Study of the Year’ EMMA.[46]


  • Finalist for Best in Business Travel Technology & Services award, Grand Prix des Lauriers[47]
  • Finalist for Risk Management Product of the Year (Specialised) and Best Use of Technology in Risk Management - CIR Magazine[48]


  • TravelTracker 6.0 won the Business Travel Awards ‘Best Specialist Business Travel Product/Provider[49] Shortlisted for Best Technological Innovation in Relocation - Re:Locate Awards[50]
  • Best Specialist Business Travel Product/Provider award - Business Travel Awards[51]


  • International SOS and Control Risks received the Individual Alliance Excellence Award from the Association of Strategic Alliance Professionals. The award recognises excellence in planning, implementation, and results of a single alliance.[52]


  • Emerging Risk Solution of the Year, FERMA / Commercial Risk Europe Awards For TravelTracker and new Incident Management Service solution. The judges commented that International SOS use the latest technology “to track, communicate with and report on employee risk exposure better than ever before. The tool enables risk managers to focus on business continuity to help operations return to normal during crises.”[53]
  • Risk Management Product of the Year, CIR Risk Management Awards For TravelTracker and Incident Management Services solution.[54]
  • International Healthcare and Risk Management Provider of the Year, FEM EMMA EMEA Awards For healthcare and assistance services. The judges said: “International SOS combines technology solutions and constant focus on improvements to reach high-level customer experiences. Splendid!”[55]
  • International SOS was named the winner in four categories at the Americas EMMAs: Best use of Data Analytics within Global Mobility, Most Innovative Use of Technology in Global Mobility - Assignee Management, International Healthcare and Risk Management Provider of the Year and Thought Leadership – Best Survey or Research Study of the Year.[56]
  • Winner of a silver Stevie® Award in the ‘Most Innovative Company of the Year for 2500+ employees’ category in The 15th Annual American Business Awards[57]


  • Malaysian-French Chamber of Commerce and Industry Excellence Awards, Corporate Social Responsibility Award. International SOS Malaysia was recognised for its work in medical health checks, consultations and hygiene talks to villagers in rural areas.[58]
  • Finalist, Internal Communications Brilliance Awards, Best Internal Communications Campaign[59]
  • Italian Mission Awards, Best Tool for Risk Management for the travel tracking service, TravelTracker[60]


International SOS has been listed as a publisher on several academic works covering research into duty of care and travel risk management. Notable publications include works by Professor Dr. Lisbeth Claus[61][62] and ACTE (Association of Corporate Travel Executives) International.[63]

2009 ‘White Paper: ‘Duty of Care of Employers for Protecting International Assignees, Their Dependents, and International Business Travellers’, written by Professor Dr Lisbeth Claus, published by International SOS.[61]

2010Briefing Paper: Every Ash Cloud has a Silver Lining – Lessons Learned from the 2010 Icelandic Volcano Crisis’, published by ACTE (Association of Corporate Travel Executives) Global and International SOS.

2011 ‘Duty of Care and Travel Risk Management Global Benchmarking Study’[1], written by Professor Dr Lisbeth Claus, published by International SOS.

2015 ‘Travel Risk Management, European Trends’[2], written in partnership with FERMA and DLA Piper.

2015Scholastic sector's duty of care: Managing the pursuit of education while abroad’ written by Dr Lisbeth Claus, Professor of Global Human Resources at the Atkinson Graduate School of Management of Willamette University, and Robert L. Quigley, Regional Medical Director and Senior Vice President of Medical Assistance, Americas Region for International SOS.

2016Managing the safety, health and security of mobile workers: an occupational safety and health practitioner's guide’ by International SOS Foundation and IOSH

2017 ‘Investing and Operating in Russia’ white paper launched in partnership with Enhesa'

2018 'Investing and operating in Mexico: How to Mitigate Occupational Health Risks and Achieve Regulatory Compliance'

International SOS Foundation[edit]

The International SOS Foundation launched in March 2012 and is a registered charity that was started with a grant from International SOS. It is a fully independent and non-profit organisation.[64]

The International SOS Foundation has the goal of improving the safety, security, health and welfare of people working abroad or on remote assignments through the study, understanding and mitigation of potential risks. It has published, and acts as a repository for, a number of academic papers, articles and advisory notes on duty of care, travel risk management and related topics.[65]

In 2016, the International SOS Foundation introduced the Duty of Care Awards to recognise organisations and individuals who have made a significant contribution to protecting their staff as they travel and work overseas.[66]

In 2017, the Duty of Care Summit was launched bringing together industry leaders to share best practice in the safety and security of the mobile and remote workforce. Takes place on the day of the Duty of Care Awards.

Singapore Declaration launched by International SOS Foundation at the Singapore World Summit, calling for organisations to sign to declare commitment to supporting the health, safety and security risk prevention principles in business related travel.

Publications from the International SOS Foundation[edit]

Notable publications include:

  • The ‘Global Framework on Safety, Health and Security for Work-related International Travel and Assignments’, compiled by Dr David Gold. In 2014, the ‘Global Framework’ won the award for ‘Thought Leadership’ in the Expatriate Management and Mobility Awards (EMMA), for the Asia Pacific region.
  • Return on Prevention’, published by Prevent and commissioned by the International SOS Foundation in March 2015, investigates the risks associated with international assignments and the cost of a failed assignment.
  • 'Travel Risk Mitigation Bowtie', International SOS Foundation. 2015.

See also[edit]


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  16. ^ - MedAire, an International SOS Company, to Deliver New Levels of Medical Assistance
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  64. ^ "international sos foundation". Retrieved 2016-07-19.
  65. ^ "Menu". Retrieved 2016-07-19.
  66. ^ "Global Duty of Care Awards, International SOS Foundation Call for Nominations | Business Wire". Retrieved 2016-07-19.

External links[edit]