Exploring3 min read
We all travel today. A lot. Adventure, business, pleasure, study– all are reasons we pack our bags. Last year travelers took 924 million trips outside their home country to all points of the globe (UNWTO World Tourism Barometer). Travel is undeniably a major part of 21st century life.
In today’s post- 911 world, we also worry more about travel than any time in the past. Terrorism risks, pandemic threats, food borne illnesses, chronic illnesses (which we boomers all seem to have!), and, of course, accidents or emergencies are among the many issues we might face whether away from home for one day, one month or one year.
Today our travels are guided by new information technologies. We used to rely on a travel agent and leave home with a paper itinerary. Now we travel the world with handheld devices that connect us to the internet and function as digital assistants. We trust them for work, entertainment, instant communications, finding our way and other personal problem-solving.
In this threatening global economic climate, we also need to worry about incurring hefty medical expenses. What happens when I am treated in another country? Will my insurance pay? People don’t realize that Medicare, the largest USA public health plan doesn’t cover you outside of the USA. Don’t believe it? Check out the first two pages of a U.S. Passport.
Travel health today is a developing discipline that touches all these dimensions. It’s much more than “emporiatrics” or travel medicine. There are plenty of sources of information to check out before you leave on your trip (CDC, World Health Organization, Int’l Society of Travel Medicine), but what do you do when something happens to you while you’re out of the country? When you get off the plane, train or boat, you are also in need of “destination health” services-information resources and healthcare providers that help you manage a chronic disease or an unexpected medical event. Where would you go if you got sick or seriously injured? Do you speak the local language? Are the doctors trained in medicine practices that you feel comfortable with? Can you find medications that you can trust?
I founded a company 12 years ago which helps people far away from home access top-flight medical care all around the world. HTH Worldwide has relationships with high quality doctors and hospitals in over 185 countries. Driven by mega trends like globalization, the aging population, the internet, mobile communications, and the need for portable insurance services, Travel Health and especially Destination Health are subjects that HTH Worldwide addresses every day. We’d like to share our experience in this growing field and bring you the insights of others active in this discipline through this forum. Because we help hundreds of thousands of people each year, we know what can go wrong and how to help you. Yet, there aren’t many places for normal folks to discuss their experiences, trade stories and advice about the perils of traveling. For this reason, we’re proud to sponsor this blog.
Some of the first topics we will take up will describe the wide scope of activity that is taking place on a global scale-medical travel or tourism, medical philanthropy, the importance of wireless and internet technologies for those seeking, those providing and those paying for care. We’ll also address some of the myths that persist about getting care overseas, and we’ll invite industry authorities to share their views in this space.