IAMAT |International Association of Medical Assistance to Travellers| IAMAT |International Association of Medical Assistance to Travellers|

Travel Health Journal

How to Avoid Medical Scams Abroad

Yesterday, Tullia Marcolongo, IAMAT’s Director of Programs and Development was asked by Sean O’Shea from Global TV’s Consumer SOS about avoiding medical scams abroad in light of recent reports from tourists being duped in Mexico.

Some common medical scams experienced by travellers include:

  • Taxi drivers taking commissions from private clinics to take ill tourists to their location.
  • Doctors overcharging patients for consultations and suggesting unnecessary procedures.
  • Clinics not accepting insurance coverage and asking for payment upfront by credit card or cash.

Why is it important to be prepared with the names and locations of doctors and hospitals when people travel?

In many countries the level of care is very different from what you expect back home. The standard of care and medical practices may not be what you’re used to. As well, language differences are a huge barrier to ensuring that you get the care you need. Having the name of a reputable physician or clinic in case of an emergency can save you hassle and stress.

You or your travelling companion should insist to be taken to a clinic that you know provides trusted medical care and the physicians on staff speak your language. Always make sure to get a detailed receipt that includes the date of treatment, diagnosis of the illness, medical services provided, and medication needed. This is essential to get reimbursed by your travel insurance company. Check the fine print of your policy to see which services are eligible for a refund and the proper course of action for making a claim. Here’s more information on what to look for when purchasing travel medical insurance.

Are a lot of people uninformed about this need and if so why do you think that is the case?

Unfortunately, travel health is not always on top of people’s minds when they’re planning a trip. As travellers, we tend to focus on the destination, the hotel, the activities we’ll be doing. We don’t think about the possibility of illness and injury.

If you’ve booked a last-minute vacation, you’re often in a rush and don’t have the time to find out the health risks of your destination. For example, is there malaria? Do you need yellow fever vaccination to enter the country? What about food and water safety? It’s important to make time to do some basic travel health research and consider the possible health risks of your destination. It’s also important to consider your current health status and how you will cope in case of a medical emergency abroad.

What does IAMAT offer travellers?

Our non-profit organization offers travellers a Medical Directory of English speaking doctors around the world whose clinics have been vetted by us. Our doctors have been trained according to international health standards so you can expect the same level of care you are used to back home. They will help you navigate the local health system. Here’s a complete list of what IAMAT affiliated doctors will do for you.

We also have easy to use downloadable materials on how to prepare for a healthy trip such as immunization recommendations and requirements, an online database of health risks and food and water safety for all countries, and information on travel and mental health – how to reduce travel stress, minimize culture shock, and deal with post-travel blues.

We’d like to hear from you. How do you plan for a healthy trip? Is travel health always at the top your mind when getting ready to go abroad?

Photo by: Brian Lary courtesy of stock.xchng