Everything you need to know about telemedicine and travel insurance

During a recent visit to Abu Dhabi, my eyes were so dry they looked like raisins in the scorching desert sun.

Unfortunately, it was also a Saturday and most of the doctors’ offices were closed. But my insurance company offered a telemedicine consultation within minutes.

Telemedicine, which allows a doctor to assess, diagnose and treat you from a distance, is one of the biggest trends of the pandemic. Telemedicine use is 38 times higher than pre-pandemic baseline, according to a McKinsey study. And now travel insurance companies are joining us by offering telehealth services to their insurers or by covering telehealth visits.

“The pandemic has brought telemedicine to the forefront for people seeking medical advice and prescription drugs,” explains Adrian Leach, CEO of World Travel Protection. “Many medical centers and healthcare providers have expanded their telemedicine capabilities over the past two years.”

The latest company to do this is AIG Travel (Travel Guard). The company has just announced an agreement with health care provider New Frontier Group to provide international telemedicine and pharmacy services to its international travelers. New Frontier will support eight AIG Global Service Centers with telemedicine and prescription services for travelers from the US, Canada and select Middle Eastern countries.

Have you ever consulted a doctor through a telemedicine service while traveling? Tell me about your experience. Please scroll down to leave a comment.

New telemedicine offerings raise several questions for travelers. Among them: What kind of travel insurance do I need? Should I get a policy that includes telehealth services or covers telehealth? How do I find a policy with a telemedicine option? And most importantly, how can I use the telehealth services of a travel insurance company if I need them?

Itchy eyes in the United Arab Emirates

My eye problem is indicative of the problems associated with providing telemedicine services abroad. My insurance company GeoBlue could offer telemedicine services because the Emirates government accepts prescriptions from American doctors. But this is not always true, but the usefulness of telemedicine may be limited if US prescriptions are not accepted in your area.

“GeoBlue offers reliable telemedicine services that are available around the clock for patient diagnosis and even prescriptions,” said Joe Cronin, president of International Citizens Insurance. “Their network of telemedicine doctors is spread all over the world, so there is a good chance that a doctor will be able to write a prescription in the country you are in.”

GeoBlue telemedicine services are only available through the GlobalMD smartphone app. I assumed I could use the desktop application…


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