Hospital in Chiang Mai, Thailand
Hospital in Chiang Mai, Thailand



Nothing sends a travel itinerary into a tailspin faster than landing in a foreign hospital.

Unfortunately, it happens, and when it does you are at the mercy of foreign medical doctors and procedures.




Here’s 5 things to know when landing in a foreign hospital:

1. Communication can be challenging. Clear communication, both spoken and interpersonal is your top priority when it comes to your emergency medical needs in a foreign country. It is important to speak slowly, be friendly and direct. The hospital staff wants to understand you as much as you want to understand them. There are now many translation apps available on smartphones that can help with specific terminology or explaining symptoms.

2. Ask lots of questions. Even though your medical providers may speak English, you need to make sure you understand everything that is said. It is important to repeat information back to the doctors and nurses and clarify things you don’t understand.

3. Leave judgments at the door. Just because you are in a foreign country, do not make negative assumptions about your care. You ARE out of your comfort zone, but do not expect a poor experience or care as it will impact your disposition.

4. Don’t assume that “different” = “wrong”. You are in another country so chances are some things will be done a little differently, but that does not make it wrong. They may use different procedures to determine a diagnosis or execute procedures differently than you are familiar with, but it is their own way of doing things. That being said, don’t be afraid to ask for an explanation if you are not comfortable or do not understand what is taking place.

5. It might be cheaper. If you are from the United States, it is probably not a shock to learn that medical treatment in many other parts of the world is far less expensive….thus, the boom in medical tourism. If you do land in a foreign hospital your bills may be significantly less. For example, a colleague of mine was in a Chiang Mai, Thailand hospital emergency room for an entire day–with a full battery of blood tests, an MRI, medications and was seen by two specialists. The bill? About $400USD. In the U.S. that same emergency visit would have cost thousands of dollars. The care was excellent to boot!

Do not forget to keep careful documentation of your visit and your doctor’s names. Be sure to hold onto all paperwork for your doctors and insurance at home.

Hey, emergencies happen. If you do end up in a foreign hospital, keep these things in mind and you will most likely find quality care.