Innovation in a Crisis: With Erin Lord from Aeromedical Solutions
When we think about building a business to fill a much needed gap in the marketplace, we often don’t look to crisis or unfortunate events for inspiration.
But for Erin Lord and Steve McLaren, co-founders of Aeromedical Solutions, their opportunity in business was staring them in the face during their time working for the Royal Flying Doctors Service.
Throughout her six years with the Royal Flying Doctors Service in logistics and client support, Erin would often receive phone calls from people who were looking for reassurance and advice on how to transport their loved ones home from overseas, without the hefty price tag.
Whilst the Doctors Service was unable to offer its services to these cases, Erin and Steve realised just how big the need for a brokerage service in medical rescue was.
“These phone calls are coming to us at our clients worst hour, when they are fearful, unsure, and uneducated in the area. They needed a guiding hand, and that was something we could provide with our experience and skill within the industry.”
So, through the hardship of others, and through their passion to help and care for underinsured or uninsured travellers, Aeromedical Solutions was born.
This brokerage service arranges medical repatriation to both interstate and international clients who have become ill or injured. Given that ill-informed family and loved ones of the client were paying, sometimes in the vicinity of $300,000 to get them home, this service was both needed and welcomed.
Since launching their business in 2019 with the support and education from the Startup Gippsland Program, Erin and Steve now have access to 100 partners globally, who are selected for contracts based on their quote, their quality of service, and their governance.
Erin says, “We wanted to think of new ways to transport medical patients home rather than traditional air ambulance services which are extremely costly. So now, we look to use commercial flights as much as possible, and provide a medical escort for the patient.”
“When people are faced with a crisis or emergency, there is a huge element of fear and concern, so a large part of our work, and our values in business, is built on the support we can give our clients and their loved ones. We like to think of ourselves as a bed-to-bed service!”
“Our clients are navigating new territories when a medical situation occurs overseas or interstate, and without prior knowledge of the industry, they can be financially exploited. We want to help our clients feel supported, and we do this through the relationships we build out of empathy and listening without judgment.”
Erin and Steve experience that in worrisome situations such as this, keeping the family and loved ones of the patient well informed and updated helps make the experience that little bit easier for them.
In light of the current crisis regarding COVID-19, Erin and Steve have had to make some adjustments to how they operate and provide services to their clients. Whilst previously they had used commercial flights to transport their clients, they have had to become agile and think on their feet given the changes to their value proposition.
However, Aeromedical Solutions have established some exciting new relationships as a result of the virus pandemic.
Whilst in New Zealand for a business trip in February, they were brokered by the government to retrieve residents from the Diamond Princess cruise ship. Erin and Steve’s role was to transport the New Zealand passengers from Darwin to Auckland for the final leg home. Given that most commercial airlines wouldn’t take the passengers, they sourced their own team of flight attendants, captains and medical escorts from Perth, Melbourne and Sydney to fly the passengers in a private jet home to Auckland.
“This was a difficult job for us, and we built a strong relationship with the New Zealand government through this time. We needed to remain flexible in our delivery; as numbers of passengers, jet sizes and crew kept changing. Through all of this, it was important that we gave accurate information and remained transparent through the process; in this situation we had to think quickly, be flexible, and be agile.”
Aeromedical Solutions has also seen considerable growth throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. The situation has created opportunities for Steve and Erin to enter new markets, such as insurance companies, where previously they thought they wouldn’t have been required. Erin says, “Until you put yourself in front of a new client, you shouldn’t assume they don’t need you”.
This circumstance has forced them to adapt, innovate, and find new revenue streams and markets, which they can continue to service into the future because they asked, forged new relationships, and let their level of care and passion speak volumes for the work that they do.
Out of crisis can come opportunity!
Applications for the Startup Gippsland Incubator Program are now open.
If you have an idea, or are in the early stages of your business with a goal to scale to both national and international markets, then apply now. Through this tough time, you can innovate!