Indians traveling abroad: Advice physicians can give to their patients

Airplane-travel Foreign travel has become common among Indians. Documents needed for travel differ from one country to another, but these are usually well known and followed, since entry to a foreign country is virtually impossible without complying with all of the rules and regulations.

People from India may visit for business or as tourists, and these trips are usually for short periods lasting no more than a week or two. Except for emergencies, these individuals seldom need any medical attention while away from home. Our concern is for individuals who come to stay with their children, other relatives, or friends, usually for several months. New medical problems or exacerbation of their existing condition(s) do raise concerns about their appropriate and timely medical care, in a place where the physician is not totally familiar with the patient’s medical condition.[s2If !is_user_logged_in()]…

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Key Point: Follow these tips to help your patients prepare for medical care before they travel abroad, to prevent possible lapses in treatment or other complications.

A patient may be seen in the physician’s office without the benefit of the physician being aware of the patient’s medical background. These are very often elderly patients who have little knowledge of their ongoing medical issues.

Some of us physicians of Indian origin hold medical camps periodically in our area under the auspices of our Hindu temple, and by far the majority of patients seen at these camps are visitors from India who need and want follow-up for one reason or another.

What can a physician do to make the transition for his/her patient easier?

  1. Advise your patient to make a visit with you a week or two prior to the scheduled departure. The purpose of this visit is to update his or her information and ensure that the medical condition(s) are stable and under optimal control. If not, adjust the medications as appropriate.
  2. Please make legible notes (we often use imagination to decipher your notes) on the office record you give to your patient. I am sure you have same complaint about the handwritten notes you receive from us. Good news – almost all the notes you receive from us in the near future will be computer subscribed.
  3. The notes, preferably typed, should include the following:
    1. Patient’s diagnoses and any recent hospital visits
    2. Patient’s allergies, if any
    3. Any consultant’s opinion
    4. Copies of recent blood work or radiological studies
    5. In case of conditions such as Diabetes or Hypertension, any recent blood sugar, HgbA1C, and blood pressure readings recorded in your office
    6. Most important, a typed list of patient’s medications. Please remember that the Indian brand names of the medications are not the same in other countries. In addition, combination drugs are prescribed in India more often than in other countries. If possible, add to the list, the chemical constituents of the drug.
    7. Please tell us if patient is on any homeopathic or Ayurvedic drugs.
  4. Please have the patient buy sufficient medications to last for the anticipated time the patient will be away from home. In contrast to India where patients can go to a chemist shop and pick up a drug they need without a prescription, patients cannot fill a prescription in other countries without a proper prescription (except for some commonly used medications, e.g. for minor pain, digestive complaints, etc.) Drugs are also more expensive in the U.S. By necessity, this requires a visit to a physician to have him or her write a new prescription. This means even more cost to the patient, resulting in interruption of treatment, and in my experience patients omit the medication until they reach home.
  5. Encourage patients to buy Travel Health Insurance to cover emergencies and any unanticipated hospital visits. As we understand, the cost of the insurance is reasonable and affordable.

I am sure that these simple steps will make your patient’s stay safer, more enjoyable, and less taxing for their caregivers also.

By: Dr. P. Lal Arora, MD, FRCPC, and Zubin Arora, MD, Resident in Internal Medicine.
PL AroraDr. P. Lal Arora is a practicing Geriatrician in Lorain County, Ohio (USA). He is the Medical Director of Kendal, Northern Ohio. He is a graduate of Medical College, Amritsar, Punjab University and did his postgraduate training in Internal Medicine, Pulmonary Diseases and Geriatrics in the US. He is Board certified in these specialties and is also a Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians of Canada.

Zubin AroraZubin Arora MD is a graduate of the All India Institute of Medical Sciences, New Delhi, India. He is currently completing his residency in Internal Medicine in Cleveland, Ohio.


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  1. jagannath chandra shekaran
    Posted Jul 2013 at 11:55 am | Permalink

    what about any vaccinations before travelling. learn about local seasonal prevailing infections of the country before travel.

  2. Vijayakumar Shinge
    Posted Sep 2013 at 3:30 pm | Permalink


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