Before traveling abroad as a digital nomad or retiring overseas as an expat, there are a few health planning tips to consider.
As a virtual Primary Care clinic, we often manage our patient’s health once they end up overseas. With some planning, it can make the process much easier.
1. Find a Doctor
It doesn’t matter what our patients deal with while abroad; we want to be their first advocate and will communicate with all parties to ensure they get the best care possible.
If you have a high health literacy level, minimal risk factors, are overall healthy, and have friends or family who can advocate on your behalf, there is little need for ongoing physician access.
2. Organize Your Health Data
Before you embark on your travels, it’s important to organize your health data.
If you have old MRIs, Xrays, CTs, blood tests, or even urine tests, it’s helpful to get those printed out and stored online in DropBox or Google Drive.
For complex conditions, knowing what tests you have done and when it is necessary. Also, getting the actual reports and images and not just the patient portal reports are necessary, which are often a bit too basic for physicians.
3. Get Baseline Testing
We like for our patients to have some baseline lipid, CBC, renal function, EKG, and urine testing done before they travel. Having some values to compare to in the future can be helpful.
We’ve had falsely elevated liver enzymes on a patient who had a normal previous liver panel and a normal abdominal ultrasound in the past. From this, we concluded that the ER he had gone to overseas had reported the wrong liver results.
Assessing your health risks before you set off on your travels is even more important as you get older. Our risk of disease goes up as we get older – it’s worthwhile knowing what things to focus our energy on.
4. Come up with a Lifestyle Plan
What will you eat when abroad? What will you avoid? How will you get your activity level in? How will you manage your stress, your sleep?
When I moved to Seville, Spain, I had to figure out how to get my activity in while wrangling 115 F weather. In Galicia, Spain I had to figure out my diet when I could only choose between meat, potatoes, and tortilla.
5. Find Your Health Clinic Abroad
If you are going to be in one place for a while, such as if you are an expat, take to Google Maps and look for some primary care doctors – they are a wealth of knowledge.
Sometimes, just having an urgent care pegged on the map is all you need if something comes up.