Editorial

Engaging Your Family Physician in Medical Travel

Editorial

“Locate a provider and physician that support and encourage collaboration with the primary physician in the U.S., and vice versa”


Change is the only constant. And because it is often accompanied by stressful and sometimes difficult adjustments and decisions, we often go to greater lengths to resist rather than embrace change. So how does one make change a little easier? Oftentimes having choices and options makes the transition bearable, and even rewarding.


The challenges we face in health care today are certainly no exception. As leaders and employers address the need to manage the rising costs of care in the U.S., consumers have more options than ever. From multiple offerings of plan options, Health Savings Accounts (HSAs) and Flexible Spending Accounts (FSAs) to seeking medical treatment abroad, both insured and uninsured health care consumers now need to research how to spend their own resources. One such option is medical tourism, or as the quality-conscious refer to it, medical travel – traveling abroad expressly for high quality medical care at a lower cost.

Traveling to another country for medical care, however, is not without some significant challenges of its own. One of particular importance is exactly how to involve your local physician and ensure that they will have access to the necessary resources when you return home. Medical travel will be more successful with the support of physicians and ancillary providers once back in the United States. A critical component in the success of one’s treatment is the availability and coordination of follow-up care with the patient’s domestic physician.


The consensus among many U.S. physicians is that this is fast becoming a reality of today’s health care market and more and more patients will have choices when it comes to deciding where to seek care – especially for more complex, high-cost treatments and procedures. There are several recommendations you can follow to help smooth out the transition from treatment abroad to after-care at home.

First, and most important, locate a provider and physician that support and encourage collaboration with the primary physician in the U.S. and vice versa. This should be viewed as a partnership between your doctor at home and the clinician abroad. It’s not enough to simply discuss the plan of treatment with your attending physician at home, but encourage them and the destination specialist to communicate.


Effective communication between all individuals, services, programs and organizations will likely improve the quality of care and level of functioning. According to the March 31, 2007 sentinel event statistics published by The Joint Commission, communication was cited as the root cause of the event in nearly 70% of the reported cases.

Also, share ALL of your medical history, medications, allergies and any other relevant indications that you and your physician deem important to share. If you are working through a medical travel agent, they should be able to facilitate the transfer of appropriate medical records including current x-rays, diagnostics, etc.


If fact, some agents have access to web-based repositories that enable medical records and documentation to be easily shared between authorized providers. Contrary to the more familiar referral process, this is a more complex partnership that requires all involved physicians to work together for the patient to receive the best and safest care.

The total plan of care also should include ensuring that the potential resources needed after the initial treatments are available upon your return. Although the acute portion of the recovery may occur at the treatment destination, medical travelers may require the need for several weeks of rehabilitation at home post-treatment. Make sure you and both physicians are aware of what these requirements are before completing your travel plans.

The collaborative link between the physicians facilitates a much more comprehensive treatment plan to follow you through your recovery and helps to ensure a better outcome. Medical treatment overseas serves as a complement to, not a replacement for, health care in the U.S.

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