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Lebanon 2013 | FINANCE | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Walid Hallassou, General Manager of GlobeMed, on regional expansion plans, and the level of coverage expected by Lebanese at home and abroad.

Walid Hallassou
BIOGRAPHY
Walid Hallassou holds a Bachelor’s degree in Biology from the American University of Beirut (AUB) and another in Pharmacy from the Lebanese American University (LAV). He also completed an Executive MBA at the French ESCP-EAP School of Management in 2010. He has over 14 years of experience working in both the pharmaceutical and healthcare benefits management fields, with a major emphasis on the design and implementation of solutions for the healthcare management sector in the Middle East and West Africa. After his significant contribution to creating the first e-claims system in the region, Hallassou took charge of setting up healthcare benefits management organizations executing GlobeMed franchising contracts in Côte d’Ivoire, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Kuwait, Qatar, the UAE, Egypt, Bahrain, and Jordan. He was appointed Vice-President in charge of International Business Development & Operations at GlobeMed in July 2008, and in 2012 he became the General Manager of GlobeMed Lebanon.

How does GlobeMed contribute to developing the healthcare sector in the country?

We have a new motto: “Taking Care of Healthcare," because we believe our role is not just to manage the claims and see whether a bill is correct. Rather, we want to improve healthcare standards, and to communicate with the insurance companies and healthcare providers on best practices to ensure patients get the best healthcare at the lowest cost.

How do you assess the healthcare industry in Lebanon?

Lebanon remains the hospital hub of the Middle East because of its excellent education system. Health care and education are highly symbiotic; doctors and nurses have access to excellent universities, and Lebanese universities have access to universities in France and the US, from which they source cutting-edge technology. They are always on the lookout for new therapies and equipment. Health care in Lebanon, and healthcare delivery, are very good sectors. We have excellent hospitals, diagnostic centers, pharmacies, and doctors. The problem we are facing is in the cost of healthcare versus what people can afford. And this is where we come in. It is always a struggle to balance the quality and cost of healthcare. Because our country is blessed with very good healthcare and people who are ambitious about providing patients the best quality of care, they are always keen to have the best equipment, to perform the most modern operations or procedures, and to make use of the latest technologies and drugs. Of course, all of this has a cost.

What is the added value of your expansion for your cardholders?

We have created alliances within and beyond the region. Our insured members move around; they go from Saudi Arabia to the UAE, they come to Lebanon, they go to Syria, and return to Saudi Arabia. We wanted each of them to have our GlobeMed card and be recognized by all of our contracted healthcare providers so that they do not have to pay when travelling and then bring the bill when they go back to Saudi Arabia to be reimbursed. Healthcare providers contracted with any of the GlobeMed TPAs honor any GlobeMed card (wherever it is issued) and provide cashless services to cardholders against seamlessly automated guarantees of payment generated through a swipe of the card. Subsequently, we acknowledged that people travel beyond the region and we wanted them to benefit regardless of where they were. Accordingly, we signed contracts with organizations around the world to provide similar services, wherever our card members we to be found. Today, the original 17,000 healthcare providers that we were contracted to within the region have risen to more than 500,000 worldwide.

What is your expansion strategy?

Our strategy follows three principles. First is our vision of developing according to a schedule that covers the MENA region. We need to be present in every country there; this is where we want to be because it is our region, our language, our culture, and our backyard. We want people who are insured with any of the companies that we serve to be able to travel around the region and be served wherever they may be. The second strategy is more opportunistic in nature. We have visited places like Nigeria and the Ivory Coast having perceived an opportunity, even though they were beyond the scope of our immediate expansion strategy. As we have a team working in North Africa, and are already present in Egypt, we are currently working in Morocco, Tunisia, Algeria, Libya, and Sudan. We are also contemplating locations of high potential, such as Turkey and Central Europe. The third strategy involves the franchising division. It is all about strategizing the way we work—making sure that the 12 current operations, and those coming about this year, all work uniformly. This not only involves the same color scheme, logo and name, but also the same information system, operating procedures, and more importantly service levels as well.