Healthcare Services

How to find a doctor abroad

Getting sick abroad is never fun, but our guide on how to find a doctor abroad can help ensure you find the right care for you.

Doctor abroad

By Expatica

Updated 15-3-2024

Being unable to communicate with a doctor is one of the most frustrating things you could experience in a foreign country. When you need to find healthcare abroad, it’s essential that the doctors can speak your language. After all, the prospect of explaining your aches and pains to someone who doesn’t speak English could lead to a misdiagnosis or worse.

Thankfully, whether you’re moving abroad or simply traveling through, there are a number of resources that can help you find an English-speaking doctor. To give you an idea, we take a look at some of the things you can do to keep you and your family healthy around the world.

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Get health insurance

If you’re moving abroad, it’s a good idea to get health insurance before you leave home. Not only will this give you peace of mind, but you’ll also typically need some form of health insurance to be treated by doctors in most countries. Most places allow patients to access emergency treatment without insurance. However, be aware that you may be hit with a large bill. Many countries even require foreigners to carry proof of adequate health insurance for entry into the country. Therefore, it makes sense to sort out your health insurance in advance.

hospital in Seoul

Expats working abroad may be covered by a public health insurance scheme. Travelers, temporary visitors, and those not covered by public health insurance will need to purchase private health insurance. There is a wealth of private insurers out there to choose from. Some of the largest international health insurance companies that provide coverage to expats and travelers include:

No matter how you find a doctor abroad, it’s crucial to prepare for the unexpected. If you know where to turn for medical help before a need arises, all the better.

Be prepared before you leave

Whether you’re on a business trip or you’ve just moved abroad for the long haul, there are a few ways to prepare for your doctor search. First, arm yourself as best you can with information about your medical history in the local language. Have a severe allergy to a particular medicine? What about a condition that requires frequent attention or a certain medicine on a regular basis? Severe allergies or conditions such as diabetes are precisely the parts of your medical history that a doctor needs to know. Make sure you can communicate these essential points in the local language – it could be a lifesaver.

Once you’re prepared for the worst-case scenario, you’ll feel much more comfortable when finding a doctor. Depending on where you’re heading, you may be able to find some healthcare professionals that speak English. This is particularly true in large cities, as an increasing number of doctors receive limited training in English. However, don’t take this for granted, and be sure to prepare yourself for every eventuality.

Use a directory to find a doctor abroad

Multiple platforms exist that help expats and travelers alike find an English-speaking doctor. Some, such as the International Medical Association for Medical Assistance to Travelers (IAMAT), offer paid access to a directory of English-speaking doctors with reputable training all over the world. The International Society of Travel Medicine also maintains a free directory of clinics focused on travel-related medicine. These clinics tend to focus on services such as vaccinations for travelers, but they do provide extensive information relating to the clinic staff such as languages spoken.

Emergency department in Turkey

In most cities and regions, a simple Google search for ‘English-speaking doctor’ in your local will provide at least a few leads. You may also find locally-focused resources, which will likely provide more accurate, up-to-date information. Another alternative is to find local healthcare providers through your insurance company. This will typically be the easiest way to filter by location and specialty. You will also be able to check your treatment is covered by your provider. Global health insurance providers offering this service include:

Find a doctor abroad using government sources

Beyond browsable directory-style platforms, a number of government entities provide information regarding doctors, clinics, and hospitals. These include:

  • Disease control centers: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the United States have a concise list of tips for accessing healthcare abroad. Although the website focuses primarily on US citizens, the guidelines are generally useful to anyone outside of their home country.
  • Embassies: Countries that have large diplomatic missions abroad also tend to have up-to-date. Find an embassy near you and enquire with them directly for assistance.
  • European Union: Citizens and residents of EU countries have rights when it comes to seeking out healthcare abroad. Familiarize yourself with healthcare systems across the European Union or consider getting an EHIC card.

Even if you have access to local healthcare, you may feel more at ease consulting with a doctor in English. This could be key to getting the most out of a country with world-renowned health facilities, especially if you’re far away from an urban center or an expat hotspot.

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