Passports and Medical Travel

Posted on Thu, Nov 23, 2017

All international travel is highly regulated. When you travel to a new country, you ask the permission of that country’s government to enter. In many cases, receiving approval is a trivial matter that involves filing some paperwork and waiting for it to be rubber-stamped by the right officials. However, when it’s a matter of life and death, as it can be with patients who travel internationally via air ambulance, waiting for a visa application to go through all the right channels can become very serious.   If you or a loved one are considering traveling for medical care, here are some essentials about passports and medical travel.

Passports vs Visas

Many people who don’t often travel between countries may not understand the difference between a passport and a visa. More importantly, they often don’t know when you need both. Let’s cover the difference here.

A passport is an official document, typically a booklet, that you receive from your home country. A passport indicates to foreign officials that you come from your home country and that you have your government’s approval to leave. Typically, you’ll apply for a passport through your own government. Be careful, though. Passports are not automatically awarded based on citizenship and can be denied for several reasons. (We’ll cover those in a minute so that you can be sure your passport application will go along smoothly).

Visas are related, but different from passports. A visa is a document that you receive from a country that you are traveling to. If you’ve ever traveled to Canada for a weekend and you don’t remember needing a visa, there’s a reason for that. Virtually every country will require that you get a visa from them if you plan on staying past a certain length of time. For some countries, like Canada, that length of time is 180 days. This means that, as long as you don’t plan on staying there for longer than 180 consecutive days, you may enter using only your US passport.

However, other countries may require that you get a visa if you plan on staying longer than just a few days, not nearly enough time to undergo and recover from a major operation. Even more importantly, some countries require a visa for any visit from a foreign citizen. We’ll talk about these countries in a minute, too.

Preparing a Smooth Passport Application

There are a few reasons that a passport application may be denied. Perhaps the most common among these is an incomplete or inaccurate passport application. When filing your application, make sure that you include clear and concise documents to prove your identity and citizenship. Acceptable forms of ID include an expired passport or a birth certificate. Remember, the only copies allowed are original or certified copies. A quick photocopy from the office won’t do. It’s also important to have a regulation passport photo. The State Department is not kind to photographs that don’t meet their specific guidelines.

When to get a Visa

When you’ll be ready to fly again after surgery is usually up to you and your doctor. In general, however, you may be cleared to fly after just one or two days following simpler surgeries or after about 10 days for more involved operations. Additionally, in order to decrease the risk of developing blood clots during your flight, you may need to have a medical escort fly with you. Blood clots are more likely to happen while flying after surgery for two reasons. First of all, the cuts sustained from surgery prompt the body to increase blood clotting as a mechanism to help the body heal. Second, blood clots are generally more likely to happen to a person who remains seated for a long period of time, as we generally do when flying.

Every country has different requirements for how long you can stay without a visa. Let’s cover the visa-free periods for some popular medical tourism destinations. One of the most popular countries, and the one with the most stringent visa requirements, is India. India requires that anyone who wishes to the enter the country for any purpose must have a visa.

More forgiving are other popular countries like Thailand and Singapore, which allow visitors from the U.S. to stay for up to 30 and 90 days, respectively, without a visa. In some cases, as in Singapore, it may be necessary to apply for a medical visa in order to extend your stay.

Passports are a critical part of traveling for medical purposes. Make sure that your passport is valid before traveling and go straight to the State Department with any questions about your destination country.


Getting Patients to the Care They Need

Posted on Thu, Nov 09, 2017

A young child is in dire need of heart surgery thanks to a rare congenital defect. Unfortunately, the only qualified and available surgeon is an ocean away. Without the care that she needs, doctors say that there is little hope for this child.

Though it may seem like the stuff of movies or your favorite hospital show, situations like this come up more often than you may think. In February of 2017, a young Iranian girl named Fatemeh Reshad traveled to the United States for life-saving surgery. The operation to fix her twisted artery was much more likely to succeed under American scalpels, prompting her parents to decide to make the journey.

The Need for Air Ambulances

Although Fatemeh’s case became news because of its connection to hotly debated political happenings, her circumstances are far from unique. In 2014, over 52,000 patients came to the US for medical care from Canada alone.

In order to serve the needs of patients like Fatemeh, air ambulances for international travel are capable of supporting ill or injured patients on their way to the medical help they seek. Complete with mobile medical equipment to keep patients comfortable and room for family members to escort their loved ones, these air ambulances represent a growing trend of patients who don’t see borders as they look for the best care.

One of the most pressing reasons for a patient to travel for medical care is that the very same care is either completely unavailable or relatively unreliable at their current location. This includes patients in need of highly qualified surgeons, such as Fatemeh, but there are other significant reasons why patients might travel.

Burn Centers

Among those reasons is access to specialized equipment. Hospitals and other medical centers often have limited space, so providers have to make choices about what kind of treatment they will accommodate in order to deliver the most effective care. For some places, that choice is to eliminate a burn center in favor of other forms of treatment as Mississippi did in 2006. Burn centers are rare enough that some states don’t have them at all. Burn victims in Delaware, Idaho, Montana, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Wyoming are referred to burn centers in nearby states.

However, transporting a burn victim is no simple task. Often, these patients are unable to move on their own and are highly susceptible to contamination by bacteria that healthy skin would ordinarily provide protection from. For these reasons, conventional air travel is simply not an option. Instead, a patient can be kept in stable condition in a safe environment aboard an air ambulance bound for the nearest burn center.

Organ Transplants

Availability of medical equipment is an important factor in regional medical care, but it’s not the only one. When doctors need to perform an organ transplant, they are often limited by the compatible organs on hand. Since organs can only last for so long outside of the body, it’s usually best to transplant them into nearby potential recipients rather than transport them across the country to a patient in need.

For this reason, it’s not uncommon for patients requiring an organ transplant to travel to a city or hospital where they stand a better chance of getting the organ they need. This is where air ambulances come in. Often, the underlying cause of organ failure and the symptoms of the failing organ itself leave a patient in a precarious state. By travelling via an air ambulance that can respond to a patient’s needs, he or she can reach their transplant site safely.

Medical Tourism

Not all international medical treatment takes place in such dire circumstances under such a pressing medical need. Instead, medical tourists will take the time to shop around for the best deal on a particular kind of treatment. Although no one knows how many medical tourists there really are, it’s estimated that thousands of Americans travel for the most affordable care every year.

Faced with prohibitively high healthcare costs in their home states, medical tourists can often find providers abroad that offer the same quality of healthcare at a much lower cost. Take, for example, the case of Michael Shopenn, who saved over $86,000 by looking overseas for surgery.

Medical tourists often turn some of their savings into a recovery vacation, enjoying tacos in Mexico or beaches in Thailand, while they wait until they are fit to travel again. When it’s time to return home, an air ambulance can help alleviate the risk of blood clots faced by those who travel after surgery.

Highly trained surgeons, medical equipment and organs can be difficult to find near one’s home. However, thanks to state of the art air ambulances patients can get the care that they need.


Travelling With a Chronic Illness

Posted on Mon, Aug 28, 2017

travelling-with-a-chronic-illness.jpgTravelling is a demanding task that often involves a great deal of physical exertion, and travelling to new areas can put even the healthiest immune system to the test. With this in mind, the stress is multiplied by tenfold for those travelling with a chronic illness, as many illnesses and treatments may lower the efficacy of the body’s immune system.

Travelling with a chronic illness requires a great deal of early preparation in order to ensure a safe trip. What will you need to bring? In case of an emergency during your trip, are you familiar with air ambulance transport services? These are questions that should be asked along the way. Thankfully, with careful planning, an individual living with an illness can still experience one of the many joys of the human experience – exploration.

We have put together a list of steps to take in order to make your trip as relaxed as possible.

Visit Your Doctor Before Travelling

It is highly important to visit your doctor and completing a pre-travel physical exam before you leave. We suggest doing this at least a month in advance, just in case you require any special treatment or medication to travel. This is especially important if you plan on travelling to a new country, because these trips often require specific vaccinations to prevent area-specific diseases from attacking your body. A study conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that 26% of travelers returned ill from Africa, followed by 17% returning from Southeast Asia. This is why it is important to ask your doctor about any travel-specific preventative measures that need to be taken before you begin your adventure.

Bring a Copy of Your Health History

It is recommended that you bring an up-to-date and signed copy of your health history information sheet (HHIS). This should include both personal and emergency contact information, as well as in-depth coverage of your medical diagnosis, previous treatments, and information regarding any medications you are currently taking. This document will significantly assist any care you may need in the event of a medical emergency.

Prepare the Medications You Are Taking

Of course, if you are currently taking medications, you should be sure to bring them with you on your journey. Yet, it is equally important to bring an extra supply of medication – enough to cover the necessary doses for your entire trip, plus two or three extra days to cover any unplanned delays. Furthermore, always bring signed copies of your prescriptions. This will help prevent any misunderstanding when it comes to flying with medication or syringes, as many airlines have very strict restrictions when it comes to what can be brought on an airplane.

Verify Your Insurance Information

Travel insurance is especially important for those travelling with chronic illnesses, because preexisting illnesses may require a last-minute trip cancellation or picking up an unforeseen illness during your travels may require an early trip home. With this in mind it is important to understand what most travel insurance providers cover. Here is a list of the most common coverage points:

Trip Cancellation Insurance

The trip is cancelled before departure due to personal illness, or illness within the party you are travelling with.

Trip Interruption

An illness caused the trip to end early, causing you to lose unspent travel expenses.

Emergency Medical Care

Covers medical treatment needed outside of your current health insurance network.

Emergency Evacuation

The country or area you are in cannot provide the necessary medical care, forcing an emergency trip home.

Most of the above coverage points are standard coverage items in travel insurance plans, but it is important that your travel insurance provider will suit your needs before you leave.


It is important to perform the necessary preparation. Doing so will significantly reduce the chances of any problems along the way. Afterall, travelling should be a fun and relaxing experience for anyone involved.


6 Common Mistakes When Searching for Medical Travel Insurance

Posted on Tue, Jul 25, 2017

travel-image-(1).jpgMedical travel insurance can provide great peace of mind for travelers of all types. Whether you are an adventure-seeking vacationer, an international student, or even have to travel for work, the hazards of the road (and seas and skies) can wreck havoc on even the safest travelers. However, getting the full benefit of any medical travel insurance requires a little extra effort on your part. The following list highlights six of the most common mistakes people make when selecting a medical travel insurance plan--and how you can avoid making them.

1. Thinking Your Primary Insurance Covers You

Unfortunately, most standard medical insurance plans are strictly domestic--in fact, it is not uncommon for provider networks to be limited to one state or even city. That means traveling--especially abroad--definitely puts you well outside of your normal insurer’s coverage area. Making it back home to receive the care you need very likely will not be covered by your standard plan, so medical travel insurance is definitely a worthwhile investment. Another important note: travel insurance is NOT the same as medical travel insurance. Buying travel insurance through an airline may cover cancellations and disruptions to your trip, but it provides no protection whatsoever for medical emergencies or air ambulance services.

2. Pre-Existing Conditions

Travelers get exposed to all sorts of unusual diseases and injury risks; however, sometimes health problems crop up that aren’t the result of travel. The Affordable Care Act’s provisions don’t apply to this realm of medical insurance. That means, depending on the provider and plan, you may need additional coverage to ensure any pre-existing medical conditions will qualify. Whether you are managing a chronic illness or just have a history of a particular health problem, that may fall under the “pre-existing” category and be exempt from coverage, so double-check ahead of time, and select your coverage accordingly.

3. Forgetting Prescription Drugs

Most of the time, taking your prescription medication with you is relatively straight-forward. However, there is no guarantee that you won’t run into trouble transporting drugs with you in your travels, or that you’ll be able to buy more locally should you run out of your supply. It pays to know in advance what the local laws are, as well as the pharmacy situation whatever your destination. You should also double-check what kind of prescription coverage your travel insurance offers, and whether it will help pay the local price to buy meds, or will deliver your prescription to you from a home pharmacy.

4. Location-Specific Coverage

If you are going on an especially long trip, or to somewhere like Europe with many different cities and countries nearby, there is a good chance your plans will change to include multiple destinations. If you aren’t careful, you may end up with a medical travel insurance plan that only applies to your original destination, or won’t extend coverage when you fail to disclose a change of travel plans in advance. Updating your itinerary from the road or trying to get clearance before every new excursion can be a pain. To be safe, make sure your insurance plan makes allowances for multi-country trips, or doesn’t restrict coverage when there is even a slight chance you’ll be on the go while traveling.

5. Emergency Transportation Services

Not every travel health insurance policy covers emergency medical evacuation. If you are going on an extended trip or working abroad, you may get a health insurance plan not unlike the one you have at home, which covers treatment at your destination, but not transportation. Should you require specialist care, or otherwise need an emergency ambulance service to get back home, you’ll need to make sure this is actually covered as part of your medical travel insurance. Some plans include ambulance or transportation services as a standard feature; others take a more a la carte approach, and you will have to personally elect to have this included with your plan.

6. Counting On Someone Else to Cover You

This is especially common when your travel is for business purposes, but it can apply to anyone. Never assume that some third party--an employer, a travel companion, your destination host--has coverage for your emergency medical expenses. Liability in these cases can be tricky, and frankly, you’re better off having the insurance upfront than being able to sue for damages after the fact. Plan ahead, communicate, and determine for certain whether you must purchase your own insurance, or if someone else is taking care of it, exactly what plan they are buying. They could just as easily have missed any of the above steps on your behalf when choosing a medical travel insurance plan.


How to Prepare When Traveling for Medical Treatment

Posted on Tue, Jun 13, 2017

Not all travels are for pleasure. Unfortunately, some travels are made for dire, life-threatening situations. One of these instances is traveling for medical treatment; something that has become a growing trend in America. In 2009, Health Magazine estimated six million Americans traveled abroad for surgeries and medical services on a yearly basis.

Whether you have decided to search abroad for medical treatment, or whether you need a lift to the nearest specialty hospital; there are certain steps you should take as a patient to guarantee a fluid and safe transition between hospitals. Air ambulance services are there to ensure you have a safe journey, but how can you prepare for the trip?

Medical_Treatment_2648.jpgGetting Your Papers in Order

Before you leave the state or your home, do your best to collect all the necessary documents you’ll need for your travels.

International medical travel

If you’re traveling abroad, you’ll need to make sure you have more than just your passport. For starters, air ambulance services will require some upfront information about the patient and any of the patient’s accompanying passengers. Namely, first and last legal name, passport information, date of birth, nationality, and any Visa information.

For other internationally traveling medical patients, they may need to bring a comprehensive list of all their symptoms, recent tests, family history, and blood work: also known as your Health History Information Sheet (HHIS). This will help the doctor you are traveling to have a full understanding of your needs.

Local medical travel

If you are traveling locally - within the states - to another hospital that can better serve you, bringing an HHIS can also be beneficial. With our current state of Electronic Health Records (EHRs) in the United States, not all hospitals are able to share patient information. Having a hard copy can help prevent that and save time.

Similarly, be sure to have copies of your medical insurance card, in case you need to check for coverage, and a signed copy of your prescribed prescriptions. Having a supply of your medication with you could also help in the case of the hospital not having it on hand, or issues with foreign medication. Be sure that you have more than a day’s supply of medicine, and consider having back up for after you arrive at the hospital.

Medical_Treatment_6716.jpgCover Your Bases

Getting from point A to point B is not always as simple as it seems. When considering transportation services, be sure to cover your bases. You’ll need more than transportation through the air, and checking the coverage of ground transportation is just as important. With AMR Air Ambulance, quotes for service cover both in the air and on the ground services, but not all organizations combine the two.

Make Arrangements for Family or Partner

Make arrangements with your air ambulance escort to allow room for your significant other, children, or travel partner. Most air ambulances have enough space to ensure the comfort of the patient and accessibility of the staff, but very little room is available for passengers or their luggage. Planning ahead will help prepare the service for an extra passenger on the flight.

Before you leave, you will need to make sure your travel partner has a comfortable place to stay while you’re in the hospital. Often times hospitals will partner with local charities or hotels to offer special rates and housing for those traveling with a patient. This is known as patient family housing; the Ronald McDonald house is an example. Call the hospital where you are staying to see if they suggest any local hotels or inns. If not, then look at the local listings for the most affordable and comfortable options for your travel partner.


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