Travel Assistance 101: How to Get a Medical Referral While Traveling

You’re on a business trip in Paris when you start to experience some unpleasant symptoms. You know it’s time to see a doctor, but you’re not sure where to go (it’s hard enough finding physicians you can trust at home!). You could check with your hotel concierge or try a local walk-in clinic, but you’re not sure they’ll have the quality of care you expect or even whether they’ll speak English. Now what?

Emergency room in Seville


The simplest and fastest way to get a medical, dental or pharmacy referral while you’re traveling is by contacting your travel assistance provider. For example, On Call would locate the nearest English-speaking doctors and provide you with their names, addresses and telephone numbers so you know exactly how to find them — we can even help you schedule the appointment! From common ailments to more serious symptoms, we’ll get you in the hands of medical professionals you can trust, regardless of where you’re traveling.

So how do we find quality medical care around the globe?  It’s a lengthy process and our in-house medical team has very strict vetting standards. For example, when we’re evaluating hospitals, we’ll first look to see where the closest airports are. This plays a key role in getting a traveler medically evacuated (if necessary) quickly. We’ll also look at their equipment — for example do they have a cardiac catheterization lab, operating rooms, hyperbaric chambers and the means to do CT scans and MRIs? Are their sanitation practices and operating rooms modern? Do they have pharmacies with adequate amounts of frequently prescribed medications?

Here at On Call, we strive to refer our clients to facilities that are as close to Western standards as possible — even in developing countries where quality medical care is hard to find. All too often, we see travelers ask the locals where the nearest hospital is, and they find themselves at a public hospital where the staff doesn’t speak English and the facility has poor sanitation. In some areas, your family members and traveling companions may even be responsible for your bedside care, which is something we’re not used to in the U.S. This goes to show you that it takes a certain degree of cultural awareness when choosing the best-suited medical care in a foreign country.

Did you know? Comparing hospitals on an international level is very difficult because of the resource constraints that many distant and exotic areas face — it’s not comparing apples to apples. We’re accustomed to a very high level of quality here in the U.S., and sometimes we forget that when we travel, we can’t always eat the same food, drive the same car and even receive the same type of medical care than we would at home. At On Call, we always refer our clients to the best available healthcare in their destination, but “best” in that destination, doesn’t always mean “best” in the world. Luckily we provide medical evacuations to the hospital of your choice, regardless of medical necessity. Meaning, even if you’re in a state-of-the-art facility in China or the United States, you can still choose to come home to your own doctors for treatment. 

Here are some additional tips to help reduce your risk of needing medical care while traveling in the first place!

    • Make an appointment to see your primary care doctor before you depart, especially if you have any preexisting conditions.

    • See a travel medicine specialist so they can help you determine which vaccinations you need (if any) as well any prophylactic (preventative) medications such as Doxycycline for Malaria.

    • Pack a traveler’s first-aid kit. You can either make your own or buy one online or at a local retailer.

    • Make sure you take a personal medical information form and enough of your own prescription medications (at least an extra week’s worth) just in case your luggage gets lost or delayed.

Want to learn more?
On Call’s clients are encouraged to consult with us for the most up-to-date information on their destinations and recommendations around risk prevention and travel health planning. For everyone else, please feel free to get in touch with us for more information, as well as how On Call can help protect your travelers with our customized travel risk management and assistance programs.

For over 25 years, On Call International has provided fully-customized travel risk management and global assistance services protecting millions of travelers, their families, and their organizations. Contact us today and watch our video to learn more. You can also stay in touch with On Call’s in-house risk management, travel health and security experts by signing up for our quarterly Travel Risk Management (TRM) newsletter.