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 a doctor abroad, it’s imperative that your doctor can speak English. Luckily, there are resources out there to help you find an English-speaking doctor abroad.
Whether you’re living or traveling in another country, few are things more spine-tingling than trying to find a doctor abroad. The prospect of trying to explain your aches and pains to someone that you don’t share a common language with could have a range of negative consequences, ranging anywhere from elongating an appointment to a doctor misdiagnosing a problem. So, what’s an expat or tourist to do?
Luckily, there is a wide array of resources available to help you find a doctor abroad that speaks your language.
Things to keep in mind
Whether you’re just on a business trip or you’ve 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? Being allergic to antibiotics or being a diabetic that requires insulin are precisely the parts of your medical history that a doctor needs to help you when you need it most; make sure you can at least express these to a doctor in some way.
Once you’ve prepared yourself for the worst-case scenario, it’s time to worry about tracking down a doctor that speaks your language. Doctors are increasingly studying medicine abroad or at least receive training on how to help patients in English in addition to their native tongue; as a result, large cities shouldn’t make it impossible to find a doctor abroad that you can at least have a conversation with.
Using 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 focussed 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.
Most other directories focus on a particular country or city; even a simple Google search for ‘English-speaking doctor’ in your city will provide at least a few leads. Locally-focussed resources aren’t nearly as handy as globally-oriented ones; that being said, the local ones likely have the upper hand when it comes to providing accurate and up-to-date information.
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 health care facilities, you may feel more at ease consulting with a doctor in English to limit misunderstandings. 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.
Health insurance to cover doctor costs abroad
Of course, you’ll need some form of health insurance in order to be treated by doctors in most countries. Most places allow patients to access emergency treatment without insurance, but be aware that you’ll be hit with a potentially large bill. Many countries also require foreigners to carry proof of adequate health insurance for entry into the country; it makes sense to sort out an insurance plan in advance.
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.