When going abroad, you must be prepared for the differences in health conditions, safety and security, laws and customs of a foreign country. Before you embark on your medical journey abroad, you should remember to obtain sound medical advice from your personal doctor regarding the precautions to take before and after travel and specific instructions with regard to the procedure you are seeking.
While seeking medical advice or preparing to undergo a certain medical procedure, it is necessary for you to give your doctor a complete history regarding your previous hospital visits and illnesses. Most of us may not be able to recall every aspect of our medical history and this is why we have our medical papers and records. These maintain an up-to-date record of all your clinic and hospital visits, which includes all the details of your illnesses.
Take copies of pertinent medical records including pre-existing medical conditions, known allergies and any medications (including generic name, manufacturer's name and dose). Obtain a written agreement with the healthcare provider and/or group arranging the trip, including details of treatment, supplies and care covered by the fees.
It is important to be informed of your rights and legal recourse before agreeing to travel outside your country for medical care. Find out what legal actions may be taken in the event that something goes wrong.
Laws like the Right to Information Act, specific to certain countries, mandates that when you have received treatment aboard, you are entitled to the medical record in written or electronic format or to a copy thereof.
In the case of a medical error or a breach in the contract made by a clinic, the chances are higher for insurance companies to help when you have documents to substantiate. Also ensure that you obtain copies of your medical records before you return home -- these will be given to your personal doctor back home for your follow-up care.
Essential Documents To Carry Abroad
Prior to setting off for your medical trip, read about the travel documentation, local laws, customs and import restrictions of the country you are travelling to.
When seeking treatment abroad, you should find out which medical records are required and always keep multiple copies of your medical records and reports with you.
Necessary documents usually consist of a referral or a medical certificate, a medical report and laboratory and imaging results. This further includes: X-Rays, MRIs, health histories, immunization records, prescriptions, any other medical records relevant to the case, your current doctor’s contact information and current insurance information. If you are unsure of what documents/records you need to take, it is advisable to consult your local doctor and arrange the required records.
Depending on the protocols followed and language requirements at the hospital you are heading to, you must also take care of having the documents translated and arrange interpretation, and cover all resulting costs. Check which language medical records may or should be written in, so that the translation happens into a language that your treatment provider would understand. Through this, you can ensure that none of your medical history is misinterpreted or incorrectly relayed between the doctors.
A secure universal medical record that’s monitored and updated by a personal health advisor can be another tool that can help ensure that your medical information is protected, accurate, and can be quickly and securely shared with doctors in an emergency. For instance, there are a few specialized health banks, which facilitate dialogue between a patient and physician.
Local Doctor’s Reports And Consultations
As your personal doctor has been treating you from the start, his/her reports will have the most insight into your medical condition. Having a detailed report to show your doctor abroad will ensure that you get the best medical care possible, allowing the doctor to cover all the bases in case of any complication.
Before heading off, find out in advance:
See your doctor if you become sick or feel unwell after returning home. Inform your doctor, without being asked, that you have been travelling or living outside your country and where you have been. Explain your travel history and give an account of the treatment or medical care that you have received (e.g., blood transfusions, injections, dental care or surgery).
When you travel for the purpose of receiving medical treatment you still need to undertake the standard health preparations for an overseas visit, including vaccinations. Contact a travel medicine clinic or your physician preferably six weeks before departure for an individual health assessment. Your physician will assess your need for vaccinations or preventive medication and advise on precautions you can take, to prevent contact with any diseases while travelling.
Whether or not you will need particular vaccines will depend on several factors, including:
Your risk of exposure to diseases in the medical tourism destination
Your age, current health status, and vaccination history
The presence of additional individual risk factors, such as being pregnant, having pre-existing cardiovascular disease, or having a condition that might weaken your immune system, like cancer
Reactions to previous vaccine doses and your allergy history (including medication allergies)
The risk of infecting others
Length of travel abroad
It is best to start planning 2 months before you are due to travel, as appointments and administering of vaccinations may take some time. The effect of most vaccines is slow and travelling too soon might prevent you from developing full protection from the vaccines.
The ideal time for different vaccinations are-
Typhoid: 2 weeks before travel
Hepatitis A: 2-4 weeks before travel and a booster at 6 to 12 months
Tetanus: most people will have had the vaccine at a young stage, but a booster is recommended every 10 years for travellers.
Malaria tablets: start these before your trip, as per your doctor’s advise.
Special care is generally required if you are travelling to more than one area, though the recommendations may differ depending on the country. You must check all the destinations you intend to travel through or stay in, to know the vaccinations you will require before heading there and what you should be prepared for. For instance, if you intend to travel in rural areas or have close contact with animals, you may need more immunizations than are recommended for a built-up tourist area in the same country [e.g. you might need a rabies vaccination].This is a necessary preventive measure to protect you from acquiring certain infections abroad.
You can find out which vaccinations are necessary or recommended for the areas you'll be visiting, at these two websites:
the National Travel Health Network and Centre
It is important for you to inform your treatment provider of any such immunizations received, as vaccinations can affect the result of medical tests. Some immunizations may cause you to have a false positive result with certain medical tests. For eg, a false positive on a Tuberculin test may be seen from a BCG (Bacille-Calmette-Guerin) vaccination, which is given to prevent Tuberculosis.
Importance Of Keeping Soft Copies
In this digital age, it is very convenient and eco-friendly to also have digital copies of all your documents handy, including data and images. You have to be sure that these items are saved to your device locally so that you can access them without an Internet connection. Furthermore, if you are going to store sensitive information (like a scan of your passport) on your phone or in your email inbox, make sure your passwords are strong enough to keep potential intruders out.
If you are using an electronic prescription, take one of the following with you:
A patient instruction sheet printed out by your doctor, which lists all medicines prescribed to you at the same time.
A signed summary print-out in English, available from the pharmacy or the person who has issued the prescription, i.e. a copy of electronic prescriptions. The copy can be printed out on medicines that have been purchased from the pharmacy.
A native-language summary of your prescriptions, which can be requested from the pharmacy.
You can also ask your doctor for a report of your medication and its reasons, or diagnostic details or case histories related to your medical condition. It is also worthwhile to have the documents translated into English or the language of your destination country.
Dosage And Duration Of Medication Post Treatment
Reaching your desired outcome does not end with coming out of the operation theatre. Follow-up treatment may involve postoperative wound care, laboratory tests, a check-up, physiotherapy or other rehabilitation. Follow-up treatment is usually provided in accordance with a treatment practice accepted in your country. While this seems quite extensive, all these steps are to ensure a hassle-free recovery.
Preliminary agreements on the follow-up treatment can also be made with your personal doctor before seeking treatment abroad. This involves a prior discussion about what care you will be able to receive back home. The treatment practice at your country may differ from the instructions concerning your follow-up care given by the doctor who treated you abroad. Maintaining communication between your personal doctor and the one abroad will allow them to come up with a treatment plan specific to your needs and the facilities available at both places.
Travellers should also check if the medications prescribed by the hospital abroad are unavailable back in the home country. if a different formulation is available, you should confirm with the doctor abroad before making a decision to use it.
Schedule And Instructions On Physical Therapy
A patient’s ability to regain motion and strength after a treatment and ultimately return to their daily activities depend on physical therapy. Physical therapists are specifically trained to restore a full range of motion and strength as much as possible and to prevent re-injury during the recovery process, especially in orthopaedic cases like operations on the hip, knee, shoulder, wrist, hand, neck, foot, ankle, and spine. It facilitates a speedy recovery, strengthens muscles, and controls pain to help you get back to your normal life sooner.
Physical therapy can start anywhere from a few hours to a few days after surgery and in some cases the schedule varies based on the procedure performed. For example, it should be started after 48 hours of a successful Knee Replacement Surgery.
A therapist can also provide the patient with specific guidelines to allow optimal healing. Instructions given are also based on the procedure performed. Specific information can be found at: http://www.uwhealth.org/sports-medicine/physical-therapy-athletic-training/sports-medicine-rehabilitation-guidelines/20398 Or http://www.sportsmed.vcu.edu/services/postop.html
Insurance Claims And Receipts Of Payment
Apart from travel insurance, a medical tourism insurance provides you with added protection and security from any unforeseen medical complications.
Double check your insurance policies and their expiration dates, so that you are aware of the length of your coverage. Make sure to have information available in hand such as the policy holder’s name, member number, and group number, as well as the names of any dependents. You can check directly with your provider to determine your insurance plan’s compatibility with your new doctor and confirm direct billing arrangements.
Before you travel, check if your health insurance policy includes international coverage. If not, consider buying a short-term policy that will cover you while you’re abroad, in case something happens. Similarly, a smart way to protect your trip and your money is to purchase travel insurance. Policies and coverage vary from provider to provider, but the basic idea is that you can have your money refunded if your trip has to be cancelled, postponed, or cut short for any reason.
Reimbursements Of Payments
Full list of insurance services should be clearly defined in the rules of the insurance; the reference to them must be present in the policy. The rules of insurance are usually specified, with all the obligations of the host and patient, determining the case of insurance, as well as cases where the receiving party cannot reimburse the costs of treatment and so on.
To date, some companies have developed special insurance programs for people travelling abroad for treatment. With these, you will be reimbursed any incidental expenses for complications in small, planned operations within a month after treatment.
Receipts provide proper documentation for expenses charged. Certain receipts are required to report expenses and request reimbursement. Your expenses will be reimbursed according to the rules and rates of the country where the treatment was received. For instance, with the European Health Insurance Card you can avail healthcare and claim reimbursement for the costs incurred on the same terms as nationals of the country you are in. If the treatment you need is free for local residents, you won't have to pay.
With these basic instructions in mind, you will certainly enjoy a safe and satisfying medical trip abroad.