How to find a doctor while living abroad

Before moving or traveling overseas, it is important to get to know more about the health services at your destination country. This especially important for people with chronic medical conditions or people who will stay in a foreign country for a long period of time. In this article, we will discuss how to find a doctor while living abroad and tips to prepare for medical care before and after departure.

Ways to Find Medical Facilities Abroad

Research Hospitals: We recommend that expats and travellers research destination country’s medical information and hospitals online and contact them if you require medical attention during your stay. Especially for expats who have pre-existing medical conditions such as heart disease, arthritis, HIV, diabetes and depression. When living abroad, most expats will want to use private hospitals and clinics, especially in countries where local government medical systems are underdeveloped or not available for expatriates. Expats also prefer private medical facilities because of their excellent treatment and high level of medical service. Compared to public hospitals’ long queues and waits, many private hospitals not only have English speaking staff and well-trained doctors, but also the flexibility treatment bookings to suit expats’ schedules. It should also be noted that most private medical facilities provide better accommodations and services for expatriates.

The cost of private medical treatment can vary significantly between country to country. In many nations, uninsured medical costs can cause a financial burden to many foreign patients. Therefore, it is vital for expats obtain an international health insurance plan that can cover both emergency and non-urgent medical costs.

Researching Doctors While Living Abroad: In addition to hospital search, it is suggested that expats research doctors online in their destination country as well. Please keep in mind that you will want to select doctors who can speak your language. Many embassy sites in your destination country will provide doctor services information. For example, many US embassy web sites in foreign countries will have a list of international physicians and doctors. It is also recommended that expat patients with medical needs should contact their embassy before they go abroad.

Aside from a web search, another great source for expatriates living abroad is to check with their international health insurance provider’s web site as it will often provide a list of medical doctors and hospitals that are in the insurer’s medical network. This may even allow for direct reimbursement of the costs without the expat having to pay out of pocket for medical claims. It is vital that expatriates and expat employers obtain medical coverage with an expat insurance company that has a large medical network that will provide fast and efficient payment of claims while living abroad.

How to Prepare in Advance

In case of medical emergency, some healthcare facilities may be unsatisfactory in underdeveloped countries or for expats working and living in rural areas. Expats and visitors can follow these simple points to make sure you and your family members are properly prepared while living abroad:

  • Bring any medications you may need while living abroad and make sure the bottles are properly labeled.
  • Always consult a doctor if you need to find a replacement medicine or prescription in your destination country.
  • Carry your global health insurance card with you, as well as your international health insurance company contacts and policy number.
  • Check if the local doctor can write and speak English or your native language.
  • A written document that identifies your blood type, any chronic illness and allergies in local language. This really helps in case of medical emergency.
  • Make sure your international health insurance plan has medial emergency evacuation coverage.
  • Wear your medical information bracelet if you have an underlying medical condition
  • Embassy contact information for your destination country.

Obtain International Health Insurance Before Departure

The cost of preventive healthcare at many private medical facilities is expensive, especially in more developed countries. Local healthcare packages for expats may include some very basic medical coverage, but those plans usually do not cover preventive healthcare expenses or give you access to advanced private care. With a tailored international health insurance from a company such as Cigna, expats can be covered internationally – including medical emergency evacuation and repatriation, preventive healthcare expenses, hospitalization and treatments and medicines. The peace of mind of knowing that you and your family access to the best healthcare is very important for individual expatriates and their employers. 

If you have questions about our international medical insurance plans or you want to discuss your needs and produce a customized quote, please contact us or complete the quote form