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Managing a long-term condition

Having a chronic condition shouldn’t stand in your way of pursuing a life overseas. But what research should you do before you leave and what questions need to be asked?

With an estimated five million Britons now living or working abroad, it’s becoming increasingly likely that people will need to explore their options for long-term therapy at some point.

Used to describe a range of conditions that can be classified as ‘chronic’ –such as diabetes, high blood pressure, renal failure, depression or back pain, long-term therapy represents any ongoing treatments that naturally fall outside your health insurance plan.

While comprehensive policies offer varying levels of cover that encompass a certain number of sessions, period of time or cost for specific conditions, insurance is essentially designed for curative treatment – offering immediate support in the event of an acute illness or accident.

Surgery

Can I still more overseas?

That doesn’t mean that having a chronic condition should preclude any ambition to live abroad – far from it. However, the awareness of any issue will call for some detailed research in advance to ensure that there is an adequate support structure ready and waiting.

Likewise, it doesn’t automatically follow that developing a chronic condition will necessitate an early return – with excellent local facilities, treatments and available medication often available at reasonable prices.

What questions should I ask?

In the first instance, any pre-existing conditions should be discussed in-depth with a GP. The next step is to understand exactly what’s available to you once you make the move.

If you are travelling with a pre-existing condition or would just like to build an accurate picture of health facilities in your chosen destination, key questions to ask include:

  • Is your chronic condition routinely catered for?
  • Does any one facility specialise in your condition?
  • If so, what are the facilities like?
  • How do the standards of care differ between facilities?
  • Is it possible to get good standards of care at a reasonable cost?
  • Is your prescribed medication available in this country?
  • If so, what will your annual costs be for treatment/medication?
  • How will these costs compare if you source your prescription via a hospital pharmacy or private doctor?
  • How do these payments work?
  • Are they part- or fully-funded by any state contributions you make – and if so, when would you become eligible?
  • How do waiting times vary if you pursue state-funded treatment?
  • Where do the locals/expats typically go for treatments? (for example, it’s common for Hong Kong residents to visit Thailand for therapies)
  • What advice/support is your employer willing to offer?
  • If required, what support structure would be available for your family?

 

Having a good grasp of cultural/religious differences is also vital to ensuring you get the care you want in your adopted country. For example, mental illness is rarely talked about in the Far East, so finding a clinic that specialises in depression could prove difficult.

Hospital

Seek local advice

Expats and locals are a rich source of information, offering newcomers crucial recommendations and reviews. Additional web searches will help you poll further opinions and focus on your own condition.

Be sure to ask:

  • For other expats’ experiences of local healthcare facilities and doctors
  • What pitfalls you need to be aware of – for example, the best way to cut down on waiting times/or access the best care

Expert view

Dr Jace Clarke, Chief Medical Officer with William Russell

“Continuing advances in medicine mean that there’s a lot more doctors can do these days for people with chronic conditions. This effectively means that people heading abroad have far more options when it comes to where they choose to live. Expat hubs such as Dubai, Bangkok and Hong Kong all offer excellent facilities and expertise at reasonable cost, so for patients looking for long-term therapies, sourcing the right care will come down to researching your own needs and finding the best evidence-based treatment.”

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