Access to medical treatment is a key concern for those seeking to begin a life abroad. Whether it is in Europe or further afield, an important consideration for expats before they move overseas is securing international health insurance.
Perhaps you know of someone who has recently tried to get a GP appointment in the UK, or someone on a hospital waiting list. If so the idea of arranging quality healthcare in another country, potentially with major language barriers on top, might seem daunting to say the least.
But there’s no need to be anxious. Virtual medical support is now widely available for expats across the globe whenever they need it.
Doctors on demand is a reality for many APRIL International IPMI policyholders. It gives them automatic access to telehealth, our global medical phone-based service, provided in partnership with Teladoc Health, the virtual care leader.
New methods of accessing healthcare have become important, especially since just accessing a UK GP can be tricky. Insurers and medical practitioners have worked fast to develop ways of delivering expert medical assessments quickly, safely, and conveniently, but without face-to-face contact.
A doctor on demand
Telephone-based services, which allow a patient to speak directly to a doctor, are now widely available through insurers such as ours to expatriates living and working around the world in some of the most remote places on the planet. But they are also popular with those living in bustling cities, who might not have the time to queue at a local clinic.
New methods of accessing healthcare have become important, especially since just accessing a UK GP can be tricky
Telehealth is a medical phone consultation service, offering unlimited support 24/7, currently available in four languages for UK clients. Policyholders can have a phone consultation with a qualified medical practitioner without having to leave their home or workplace to ‘see’ a doctor. If a diagnosis is not possible, the patient can be seamlessly referred to a face-to-face appointment.
Telehealth was already available in many of the global markets that as a group we operate in, but it was the pandemic that totally changed the way people had to think about accessing routine medical care.
Face-to-face visits with a GP or nurse were simply not an option, so all of us who are involved in providing medical care and support had to think of new and safe ways to deliver timely expert advice when and where it was needed. The idea of a phone-based medical advice service seems, in retrospect, to have almost been designed for the global expatriate community, as it means a doctor on demand, wherever you are, whatever the time zone.
Telehealth consultations have shown themselves to be remarkably successful and flexible too. We estimate that 75 per cent of all medical cases are resolved over the phone. The service is provided in collaboration with Teladoc Health, with 50,000 experts globally available to answer questions, diagnose and advise.
In some cases, a remote medical diagnosis may not be possible. Should this be the case, the trained Telehealth medical staff can refer patients quickly for a nearby face-to-face doctor’s appointment.
Global users of the service have been quick to voice their satisfaction levels. Teladoc Health claim a 90 per cent member-satisfaction with the service amongst users. The service has more than 80 million members worldwide spread across more than 190 countries.
This blend of telehealth benefits and in-person consultations can be used by patients with a wide range of conditions, from common colds and headaches through to occupational diseases, primary care, and other medical issues. A patient can even use this service to request a medical prescription, depending upon the local rules and regulations of the country they live in. By delivering on the small, as well as large questions a patient might have, telehealth services are able to substantially reduce anxiety around the problems of accessing healthcare in an overseas location, however remote.
Getting a second opinion can help put a patient’s mind at rest
For individuals and families moving to live or work abroad, personal health is one of the biggest worries they might face. Quite apart from any medical complaint, how to find a doctor is, for many expats, one of their greatest concerns. It’s also the reason why many decide to take out an international private medical insurance plan, giving them the reassurance that they can access medical treatment when required.
Expert second medical opinion
There are, however, occasions when the medical diagnosis might trigger high stress levels, such as with a complex illness or one which might have potentially life-changing implications. In such circumstances, a patient who is outside of his or her home country, separated from their family support network and having to deal with the stress of a diagnosis may often need an additional level of support. In such cases, we offer the ability for the patients to seek a second medical opinion, again via our telehealth service.
Getting a second opinion can help put a patient’s mind at rest, as a qualified expert is in effect reviewing and checking both the medical information and diagnosis in an unbiased manner. For the patient, this is a win-win, as it gives them more time to consider what they have been told and a second opinion to help plan their decisions about the proposed treatment plan.
Initially, a physician case manager will be in touch with the customer within 24 business hours of receiving a request. A medical expert will then go through their medical history and provide a final written report with advice in seven to 10 working days.
Remote expert health advice and information transformed the way we all receive medical advice. Telehealth medical services such as APRIL’s may only be a relatively recent innovation, but they are changing the way many now view doctor access and look set to remove a significant area of worry for the expat working abroad, particularly those in challenging and remote locations.