Medical Care Abroad

k1_551.jpgGoing to a doctor anywhere is rarely a barrel of laughs, and visiting a health care professional abroad is no exception. The best part about it is that you will leave with a bunch of highly awkward, embarrassing stories to entertain and horrify your grandchildren. And you might just find that medical care abroad is not as bad as it’s cracked up to be.

Medical care varies greatly from country to country, so much so that it would be silly to generalize. You may want to check out what the CDC has to advise before you go, but this resources doesn’t give specific info on what you can expect abroad. A few things that I’ve come to rely on:

Problem 1: It will be awkward, especially if you need a translator. And if your translator is your boss. This has happened to me not once but twice now. The nature of the visits wasn’t anything even remotely personal…but there’s always something. This last time my boss had to report my weight, estimate my height in centimeters compared to his own, and ask me if I was pregnant before a blood test. (No.)
Solution: Forget everything that went on for the short term but remember it years later to amuse others in colorful stories.

Problem 2: It will be confusing and/or frustrating if you need a translator. I make an effort to learn the local language wherever I am, but generally don’t feel confident enough to go to the doctor alone for anything remotely important if the doctor doesn’t speak English. Many doctors do speak some English, but feel similarly about carrying out a visit in something other than their native language. Example one: the doctor goes on for five minutes and the translator asks only “Did your mother have hepatitis?” Example two: The translator understands the doctor, and assures you it’s nothing serious, but isn’t sure how to explain in English what’s up with that shadow on your lung or if it’s going to go away with time.
Solution: Don’t be afraid to ask questions, and if you become concerned that you’re not able to communicate, try contacting your embassy for a list of doctors that speak your language. Be aware that your insurance may or may not cover this.

Problem 3: You will probably have to wait. Possibly in several lines.
Solution:Bring a book.

Problem 4: The health insurance you get via your job may not cover you if you take a trip home, especially if you are from the US. If you are covered by a travel insurance policy, check if it will cover you when your are at home; even for a short trip, many policies do not.
Solution: As someone whose health is happily insured by a policy purchased via BootsnAll, I must suggest you check there.