How Telemedicine Helps Travelers
Ever since she was a little girl Jane dreamed of visiting Egypt. She couldn’t wait to climb the ancient pyramids or ride a camel through the desert. At 25, with enough money in the bank, she decided that her wait was over. Jane, who had always been a savvy traveler, packed and prepared for every possibility. This included buying travel insurance. She didn’t know if she’d need it but for just a fraction of the total trip cost, it gave her a great sense of comfort and security.
Three days into her amazing trip, Jane was standing before the Great Sphinx of Giza when she felt a slight sting on her ankle. Thinking it was just a mosquito, she went on with her sight-seeing. On the morning of her fourth day in Egypt, Jane woke up with a terrible pain in her ankle. She threw back the bed covers to find her ankle was now red and swollen and what’s worse, it was difficult for her to move.
Luckily, before Jane left for her trip, she made sure her travel insurance offered telemedicine services. She booked an appointment and within the hour, she’s connected with a physician. When the physician saw Jane’s ankle, he recognized the insect bite immediately and called in a prescription. Her ankle healed completely and in one day’s time, Jane made her lifelong dream of riding a camel through the desert a reality. And she owes it all to telemedicine.
Telehealth vs Telemedicine
People often use telemedicine and telehealth interchangeably. But telehealth services is a general term referring to the technological and electronic means by which care is delivered at a distance. When it comes to travel insurance, the benefit is most likely to be referred to as telemedicine, since that’s the medical service a policyholder receives.
What is telemedicine?
Telemedicine is the practice of using technology like video conferencing to deliver care remotely. This allows you to receive care even when you are unable to get to their office.
What are the Benefits of Telehealth?
The ability to access medical care remotely is, of course, the primary benefit of telehealth. It’s easy to see how convenient it would be for busy travelers. Here are a few other, less obvious advantages of telehealth and telemedicine for travelers.
Telemedicine is the Covid-stricken traveler's MVP
One of the worst things the modern traveler has to contend with is the risk of contracting Covid while abroad. Many countries have dropped all Covid entry requirements. Still, if you contract Covid while traveling, you will likely have to remain isolated in the country until you test negative.
While you’re isolating in your hotel room or other designated space, you can use telemedicine to consult with a doctor. They can assess your condition and walk you through the Covid test process remotely. If they confirm that you no longer have Covid, they’re also able to send you a signed Covid recovery letter, which you could then use as proof of recovery to return home.
Telemedicine reduces exposure & transmission of infectious diseases
If you don’t have Covid but are wary of contracting the virus, telehealth makes it easier for you to stay put and reduce your chances of exposure. Likewise if you think you might have the flu or another infectious disease, staying put isn’t just the best option for you, it’s the best option for everyone. When you use telemedicine services, you limit your chances of contracting and spreading viruses.
Telemedicine connects your family to your doctor
If you fall seriously ill or are injured while abroad, you may need to rely on family members to take care of you when you make it back home. With telehealth you can invite your family member to the virtual medical visit. This gives them the opportunity to speak directly to the doctor, ask any questions they have and ensure that they clearly understand proper care instructions.
Telemedicine gives physicians a broader picture of your daily life
Telemedicine allows the medical provider to see you in your lived environment. This can give them a broader sense of what might be ailing you. For example, if you have allergic symptoms, a look out your window might be all the doctor needs to assess what allergen might be causing it. Seeing you in your current living environment, even if it’s just a hotel, might also give them more clues about your mental state.
Using telehealth for mental health
Since the pandemic, many mental health care providers have moved to remote environments. This makes it easier for both the therapist and the client to connect. If you’re traveling abroad or out of state, you won’t be able to use telemedicine to connect with your regular therapist, but if your travel insurance plan has mental health coverage, you would still be able to find help when you need it.
How to Use Your Telemedicine Benefit
If you find yourself caught in a situation similar to Jane’s misadventure in Giza, you might also turn to e-health. But using telemedicine services involves more than just calling up your travel insurance company. You need to do a little prep before you pick up your phone.
Do you need telemedicine or urgent care?
First, and most important, quickly assess the seriousness of your situation. Is it something for which telemedicine could actually offer care? Or are you better off going straight to the hospital? For most injuries and illnesses the answer to these questions will be quite clear. Remember, too, that a lot of travel insurance providers have an emergency assistance number. This is different from telemedicine. When you call these emergency numbers, the travel insurance provider can help quickly facilitate medical care no matter where you are or when you’re calling.
Does travel insurance cover telemedicine?
Next, once you’ve confirmed that telehealth would work for you, you’ll want to confirm that your policy either offers or covers telemedicine. Ideally, you would do this before you purchased your policy. But if you bought travel insurance without making note of all the benefits and exclusions, you’ll want to do this now. Just hop on the internet and read the policy docs to confirm that this service is in fact either provided or covered.
Once you do that, it’s time to find a provider. Unfortunately, if you’re traveling abroad, you won’t be able to use telehealth to have a virtual visit with your doctor in your home country. Since you’re temporarily on travel medical insurance, you have to choose someone local. You can do this by looking up medical providers online, just as you would when looking for a new doctor through your domestic health insurance plan.
If it’s unclear whether a certain provider provides telehealth services, you can always call them to verify. If no one at the office speaks your language, your travel insurance provider might offer translation services that can assist you.
It’s okay to use an out-of-network doctor, but be aware that you’ll have to pay more out of pocket to see them than you would an in-network doctor.
Once you find a doctor that offers telemedicine services, you’re ready to pick up that phone and make an appointment. They’ll explain everything you need to do on your computer or phone to set up and access the virtual visit.
When your trip is over, you’ll need to file a claim for this visit. So there are a couple things to keep in mind during your telemedicine session. Make sure that the doctor emails you any documentation you’ll need when you file a claim. This could include things like itemized bills, receipts, or notes from the doctor. The good thing about keeping this all electronic is that you don’t have to worry about making copies of the docs you send with your claim.
After you file a claim it will go through a review process where the insurer will ultimately decide whether to accept the claim or deny it. If they accept the claim, great, you’re done and your reimbursement is on its way. If they deny the claim, remember you can still file an appeal.
Find Travel Insurance for Telemedicine
If you’re looking for travel insurance with telemedicine services, VisitorsCoverage has the insurance plans you need. Here are some of the best travel insurance for Telemedicine:
This plan is best for temporary visitors to the United States
While this plan offers coverage for visitors to the United States, it is also a great option for U.S. citizens or Green Card holders living abroad coming back to the states for a visit.
Seven Corners Travel Medical Plus USA
Like CoverAmerica-Gold, this plan is best for temporary visitors to the United States. It also offers great Covid coverage.
Need Help Deciding on Telemedicine Coverage?
VisitorsCoverage is happy to help. If you have questions about telemedicine or need help choosing the best travel insurance for your needs, our award-winning customer success team of licensed travel insurance agents is just a click away.