Before moving or travelling overseas, it is essential to learn more about the health services at your destination country. This is especially important for people with chronic medical conditions or people who will stay in a foreign country for an extended period. 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 their destination country’s medical information and hospitals online. This is especially important 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 typically prefer private medical facilities because of their excellent treatment and high level of medical service. Unlike public hospitals, many private hospitals have not only English speaking staff and well-trained doctors, but also the flexibility of 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 from country to country. In many nations, uninsured medical expenses can cause a financial burden to many foreign patients. Therefore, it is vital for expats to 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 websites 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 excellent source for expatriates living abroad is to check with their international health insurance provider’s website, 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 the 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 adequately prepared while living abroad:
- Bring any medications you may need while living abroad and make sure the bottles are correctly labelled.
- Always consult a doctor if you need to find a replacement medication or prescription in your destination country.
- Carry your global health insurance card with you, as well as your international health insurance company’s contacts and policy number.
- Check if the local doctor can write and speak English, or your native language.
- Have a written document that identifies your blood type, any chronic illness, and allergies in the local language. This information is vital in the case of medical emergency.
- Make sure your international health insurance plan has medical emergency evacuation coverage.
- Wear your medical information bracelet if you have an underlying medical condition
- Have the 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 tailored international health insurance from a company such as Cigna, expats can be covered internationally with: medical emergency evacuation and repatriation, preventive healthcare expenses, hospitalization and treatments, and medicines. The peace of mind of knowing that you and your family have access to the best healthcare is very important for individual expatriates and their employers.