Organising transcontinental travel and an extended stay for an entire family during the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic
“Thank you all at mdgroup for your great job.”
In February 2020, we recruited our first patient for a particular study into a serious childhood neurological disorder. The family needed to travel from Chile to Spain for the three-month duration of the study visit.
This length of stay is unusually long, and we were tasked with managing all elements of the visit, including booking flights, arranging suitable accommodation, and organising payments for living costs.
Our first challenge was the short notice of the request. We faced a tight timeline of less than a week to book the flights and find accommodation and before we could make a start we needed to ensure all the correct documentation was in place.
Obtaining required documentation
Our first challenge was getting the family’s consent and personal information, including names of those travelling, their age, language spoken, preferable language documentation and exact visit dates.
We also needed to get an approval letter from the site as proof that the family were eligible to stay in Spain. These ‘pre-steps’ were required before we could begin travel arrangements.
We knew the predicted end date for the patient to complete the study might change. This meant we needed to book open-ended flights which are generally more expensive. What’s more, tight timelines meant flight prices were even higher.
The flights also needed to be suitable for a family taking a long journey with a young child. We wanted to reduce stress as much as possible and didn’t want the family to be too exhausted on arrival.
The client asked us to provide them with various options that kept within budget, finding the best solution for the family while lowering the risk of losing money.
Accommodation and living expenses
As with the open-ended flights, we also needed to consider accommodation with flexible check out dates. In addition to not knowing the exact end date of the study, there was also the risk that the patient might drop out and want to return home earlier. Again, we needed to lower the risk of losing the client money.
Booking accommodation for a three-month family stay in a different country – let alone a different continent – is never easy. We also needed somewhere with good internet connectivity, close to the hospital, in order to make things as easy and comfortable as possible for the family.
We needed to be careful of incurring additional, unanticipated costs such as loss of deposit, or cancellation fees. On top of accommodation, we also had to arrange payments for living costs bi-weekly.
COVID-19 presented another major challenge, and we needed to extend the family’s stay in Spain during the peak of the pandemic.
All of our arrangements and liaison with the family needed to be conducted in Spanish, as that was the only language they spoke.
We managed to meet all client requirements by providing a high calibre of service, thinking outside the box and going above and beyond as a team. This included:
- Taking action rapidly to get all required documentation ready within a day
- Sourcing and booking open-ended flights within budget, despite the tight timeframe
- Finding a suitable apartment that met multiple requirements from the client and which had no cancellation fee
- Negotiating to extend the length of the stay during the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic
- Setting the family up with a pre-paid Mastercard to cover living expenses which was registered, activated and loaded on time as well as explained to the family
- Overcoming the language barrier by including the Study Co-ordinator in our telephone communication with the family, and translating all our emails before sending them
We delivered everything that was asked of us by the client, despite several exceptional challenges. We stayed true to our values that excellent teamwork and prioritising patient satisfaction only ever deliver an excellent result, even in a challenging situation.
Our patientprimary travel team showed their amazing negotiation skills by extending the family’s stay in the same apartment, even though it was meant to be let to a different family.
Our client was extremely happy with our effort and service, our quick turnaround, and the fact we kept the family happy during the trial.
The family said they felt connected with us, had more trust in the clinical trial process, and they were happy with the way we arranged their flights and accommodation as well as taking care of everything they needed.
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