Many of us do not consider the possibility of requiring medical care while traveling to a foreign country. When you prepare for your next trip, don’t forget this advice:
Your domestic health plan may also cover you when overseas. If not, your credit card may offer sufficient coverage for medical issues abroad. When in doubt, you can always purchase travel insurance. Make sure you understand any exclusions or limitations.
Bring your own medications
Always bring prescription and non-prescription medications you may require. Carry them in your hand baggage. If you will be traveling for a longer period, be aware that some countries have rules regarding the amount of medicine you can bring in at one time. Don’t forget simple items, such as antibiotic cream and over-the-counter pain relievers, and be careful with controlled substances.
Know who to contact in an emergency
There are resources available to help you find the right places for healthcare abroad. If you have an emergency, speak with your hotel concierge or call the local ambulance number. If it is not an emergency, embassies generally provide lists of hospitals. Look online for medical concierge services to assist you in the area you are traveling in.
Identify your “virtual caregiver”
Going to a hospital in a foreign country after an accident or for an illness can be a confusing and frustrating experience. Before you depart on your trip, designate someone you trust to be contacted (and possibly make decisions for you) in the case that you need support. Create a small card that indicates who should be contacted in case of emergency. Also, consider adding your personal doctor’s contact information to the card.
Recognise that almost every country has some decent healthcare
Most countries have highly qualified physicians and medical staff that can help you with ease. The availability of facilities and areas of speciality can vary greatly by location. If it is not an emergency, take your time to look around for the right place.
Don’t push beyond your limits
You may want to consider minimising your risk of accident or illness. Simple things like staying hydrated, applying sunscreen, using condoms and not pushing your limits can keep you out of the hospital. If part of your journey includes doing extreme sports or work with inherent physical risk, then there is all the more reason to hope for the best and prepare for the worst.
While great medical care is available in most places, you may not be in the right place. If you feel unsure, consult with your virtual caregiver on what to do. Do not hesitate to ask questions and go to another facility or back to your home country if in a condition to do so.
Some medical facilities may try to take advantage of your situation by charging for unnecessary procedures or padding the bill. If you are not sure what you are being charged for, ask.
Remember to get a report from the doctor
It is most likely that you will have to pay for your bills upfront and get reimbursed when you return home. For insurance purposes and for your own medical records, always get a report from your attending doctor. Contact your insurance company for details on the specific paperwork they may ask for.
When planning a trip, many of us do not think about the risk of accident or illness. But unforeseen events can happen. However, with some planning before you go—along with a list of available resources—you can feel confident that you will be able to handle any medical situation that may arise.