Travel health: Getting quality care on the road
A recent poll asked people who travel around the world for work what their top travel health concerns were. Thirty-five percent of those surveyed said the most serious health threat facing travelers in 2016 is access to quality care. What steps you can take to ensure you can quickly access high quality care when you’re traveling for business or pleasure?
Get prepared before your trip
You should find out what potential health issues you may encounter at your destination, for example, Zika virus in the Caribbean, Central and South America, Mexico, South Pacific, and off the coast of Africa, or MERS in the Arabian Peninsula. You can find a list of countries facing disease outbreaks on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC’s) website.
The next step is to consult with your doctor at least six week before your planned travel to receive any needed immunizations or boosters. This visit is also an opportunity for you to talk with your doctor about any special precautions you should take in light of your personal health history and any chronic conditions you’re living with, such as diabetes, asthma, heart disease, or immune system issues. Also make sure you have enough of any prescription medicine you take regularly and ask for a prescription you take with you in case you lose your medication or run out.
Make sure you have access to your medical records
If you fall ill or are seriously injured while traveling, it’s essential that any physician who treats you can easily and quickly access your complete medical record. The record should include information about any surgeries you’ve undergone, any chronic conditions you’re being treated for, any serious diagnoses like cancer, the results of diagnostic tests, and a list of any medications you take.
There are several online services and apps that allow you to upload your medical records. Another option is to work with a health advisor who can make sure your records are carefully reviewed to ensure accuracy and stored in a secure universal medical record that can be accessed in minutes by your treating physician anywhere in the world.
How can you find qualified physicians overseas?
There are a number of strategies you can use to find a doctor if you need one while you’re outside the U.S.:
- Some large academic medical centers work with an international network of hospitals. You can contact one of these centers of excellence and ask for a recommendation before you leave on your trip.
- If you need medical care while you’re already outside the U.S., the State Department or local U.S. consulate can help you locate medical services.
- You can ask the concierge at your hotel for recommendations for physicians who speak English.
- If you have travel medical insurance, your insurance provider can connect you with healthcare providers overseas in an emergency.
- A health advisor can provide you with access to experienced physicians trained in Western medical care who speak English, or if an English-speaking physician is not available, an advisor can arrange for a translator to be present when you receive care.
Taking a proactive approach to travel health and planning can help ensure you have access to quality care when you need it most.