Travelers now have an easy way to access medical care when they are abroad. TripDoctor is a web application and platform that helps international travelers find and connect to local doctors who speak their language via video consults, house calls, and hospital and clinic visits.
The new service is currently available in several countries, including Mexico, the Dominican Republic and Jamaica. By the end of the first quarter of next year, the service will connect travelers with medical care in Morocco, Costa Rica, Colombia and Panama.
TripDoctor is the brainchild of Dr. Daniel McChesney and Ben Hose who founded the company after traveling the world and realizing that, despite the mobile connectivity for planes, hotels, tours and other local services, if you get sick abroad it’s still hard to connect with quality medical care.
Now, with TripDoctor, travelers can easily find a trusted, local doctor that will consult with them via their mobile devices or computer for around $40. Appointments are available the same day and doctors are able to treat most common illnesses and provide prescriptions. TripDoctor also has a network of local physicians that can visit a patient at their hotel or they can advise and help with an in-person appointment at a local hospital or clinic.
To gain deeper insight into this new service and its benefits, TravelPulse sat down one on one with McChesney:
TravelPulse: Why do travelers need access to health services while abroad?
Dan McChesney: Travelers have a much higher risk of getting sick or injured abroad than they do at home, and many people are unaware that their U.S. health insurance does not pay for non-emergency healthcare outside of the country.
Travel insurance may cover the cost of medical care while you are abroad, but not all plans are created equal. Check to make sure your plan covers at least $100,000 in medical coverage per person per trip and will also pay for emergency medical transport home in an “air ambulance” if needed.
Plans may also cover things like lost luggage, stolen valuables and unused air tickets or hotel rooms.
Unfortunately, less than one-third of Americans buy travel insurance when they go abroad and over half of the plans purchased offer no healthcare coverage. This means most travelers have no coverage for potentially high medical bills. However, both those with and without travel insurance can benefit by using TripDoctor’s service.
TP: Why TripDoctor if a traveler already has travel insurance?
DM: TripDoctor works both with and without travel insurance. Our application solves the important problem of how to find, select and connect with quality doctors and hospitals when abroad.
Because we offer transparent pricing, travelers know in advance how much they will pay for their initial visit, and how much they will pay for additional medical services if necessary. Typically, these prices are much less than than one would expect.
If they have travel insurance, travelers can submit their receipt and medical record for reimbursement.
Even without travel insurance, travelers can submit their emergency care medical bills for reimbursement to their U.S. home health insurance, which must reimburse for emergency services when outside of their network.
The key to this is to be sure the doctor writes in his notes that this was an emergency visit, requiring immediate attention, even if it occurred outside of an emergency room. You will then need to contact your insurance company to file a claim.
TP: What makes TripDoctor care different?
DM: Unfortunately, sick travelers make easy targets for unscrupulous doctors and hospitals.
Outside of the U.S., hotel workers and even the hotels themselves often demand kickbacks for referring their sick guests to local doctors and hospitals. They don’t refer you to the best doctor, just the one who pays them the most. In order to pay these kickbacks, these doctors and hospitals often try to over-treat and over-bill these unsuspecting travelers.
I have heard stories of travelers being charged $2,000 for only five stitches, being admitted to the ICU for an only slightly elevated blood pressure, even getting surgery that they did not need. Furthermore, this occurs in countries where healthcare costs are generally much lower than in the U.S. These unscrupulous doctors will do anything to run up the bill with no concern for their patient’s welfare.
Because of this, I advise any traveler to never accept care from anyone who won’t give you an upfront and reasonable price or if your gut is telling you that this doctor does not have your best interests in mind first. If you find yourself in this situation, TripDoctor is here to help you.
TripDoctor’s mission is to empower the traveler with options and reliable information to make the right healthcare choice for their needs. When you are on vacation, or traveling for business, you deserve comfort, convenience and control. Our doctors are pre-vetted by our team and they receive patient evaluations on each visit, so you know if prior travelers have been happy with their care.
For this reason, TripDoctor believes that good healthcare should come to the traveler, not the other way around. To meet this goal, we offer three appointment choices; a video consult for minor issues and travelers who are in remote locations, a house call where the doctor comes to you in the comfort of your hotel room, or, for travelers with more complex medical issues, a priority clinic or hospital visit.
TP: How does TripDoctor work?
DM: Travelers can visit TripDoctor.com to create a TripDoctor account, pick their choice of appointment type and request an appointment, all within five minutes.
Our doctors typically confirm the appointment within minutes. If you need assistance or need to rebook, our friendly customer service team is available to help you by chat or phone.
TP: Can TripDoctor help if a traveler forgets medication when they travel abroad?
DM: Forgotten or lost prescription medication is a very common issue that the doctors on our platform frequently solve. All travelers need to do is to book an appointment with a TripDoctor provider to get their needed medications. Our doctors are locally licensed and can prescribe medications through local pharmacies.
It helps if the traveler has an empty medication bottle, a picture of the prescription they left at home or can connect to their home doctor’s office to verify the prescription.
One important note is that our video consult and house call providers do not dispense narcotic medications. If travelers are experiencing severe pain, they should go straight to the nearest emergency medical center.
TP: Does TripDoctor offer vaccines?
DM: Just like lost medications, travelers frequently need to get vaccines while traveling. This exact problem happened to me several years ago. While on a business trip, when I went to check-in for my flight, I learned that a yellow fever vaccine was required to enter Costa Rica from Colombia; so, I was not allowed to board my flight.
After a lot of frustration and searching, I ended up going to the local children’s hospital emergency room to get the vaccine–delaying the trip by days.
If I had access to TripDoctor at that time, I could have easily found the vaccination clinic nearest to me and booked the next available appointment.
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