How to Find a Good Local Doctor While Abroad
When moving to a foreign country or booking an international vacation thinking about medical care, and finding a doctor who can take good care of you, is probably the last thing on your mind. When preparing for your trip there are some things you know you need to bring with you: clothes, toiletries, your passport, medications, plane tickets, etc., but what about things to safeguard you in case of a medical emergency? While some travelers feel they are financially covered, either through their major credit card company or their domestic insurance plan, often this coverage is not enough, especially in the case of a medical emergency.
Hospital or international Doctor Search
If you find yourself in need of a local doctor while in a foreign country, there are several ways to find a good local doctor abroad. Firstly, if you have Internet access, consult an authoritative website on overseas physicians such as U.S. embassies and consulates. You can usually find a comprehensive list of international hospitals and physicians under an “American Citizens Services” heading. If you cannot locate this information online, or should you find yourself without Internet access then look up the U.S. embassy’s phone number and speak with them directly.
It’s important to keep in mind that while the list and information provided by a U.S. embassy abroad may be accurate, it is not necessarily a recommendation nor can an embassy refer you to a specific international doctor or healthcare facility. They are also not responsible or liable for the doctor’s ability or quality of care given at the medical facility.
A U.S. embassy can assist in locating the correct medical services you may require and assist in informing your family and friends back home of your situation, but don’t expect the same level of care and assistance as you would get through your insurance provider since it’s not technically their job.
Prior to any international trip, it is important to understand that medical practices and healthcare facilities abroad are very different than what you may be used to. There are also language barriers to consider, so it’s important to be familiar with your medical history and do what you can to cover yourself in case of a medical emergency.
Research Medical Care in your Destination
Learn as much as you can about your destination. Learn what kind of medical services are and are not available. You can also research that country’s medical information and facilities online and contact the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for destination-specific health and medical-related information.
How Do I See a Doctor in a Foreign Country?
If you have an international health insurance plan, or travel insurance, they should provide you with an emergency medical assistance number you can call to help you arrange for a doctor visit. To schedule an appointment, first contact your insurance company. They can help you schedule a visit and often will pay the provider directly. If you are not covered by insurance, simply contact a local doctor or health care facility to schedule an appointment. Any charges will have to be covered by you, often in advance of any treatment or consultation.
International Medical Assistance Services
Suggestion: invest in international medical insurance. When you purchase international health or travel medical plans, you will have access to free international medical specialists. You will be able to call this service 24 hours a day to help you locate an international doctor in the country you are in. These specialists are trained and have extensive experience in finding the best doctors for your specific medical issues. Although there may be a facility nearby, it may not have international doctors that speak your language or specialists trained to deal with your specific illness. Insurance companies want you to get better fast so your medical costs will be minimized. Use them to your advantage.
Should a situation arise that requires urgent medical assistance and access to the medical hotline, make sure you keep the following information with you at all times:
- Your insurance card
- International insurance company contact information in case you need to get approval for the treatment
- Your regular doctor’s name and phone number
- Any pertinent medical information
- Contact information for loved ones back home, in case they need to be contacted
- Embassy contact information for countries in which you are traveling
Having this information handy will ensure you receive all the information you need in a timely matter. Always keep records of anything related to medical treatment received overseas and give this information to your regular family doctor once you return to home soil.
Should you find yourself overseas for a period of over a year then make sure to let your insurance company knows and to have your travel medical insurance coverage adjusted to reflect this change. If you plan on multi-trips within the span of a year you can also look into a multi-trip policy that covers you for all travel outside of the country over the course of one year and up to a maximum number of days per trip. This kind of travel medical insurance is perfect for the frequent traveler.
Related: Health Insurance for Living Abroad
Remember, even the youngest and healthiest of travelers are vulnerable to international healthcare, especially in the case of an accident or injury. Realizing this and knowing how to find appropriate medical care outside of your home country is important, and many times the right insurance company can assist in finding the help you need when you need it – including assistance finding a local doctor while abroad.