Health care for expats

Key information

Moving and living abroad carries some potential threats for your health and your wellbeing.

While moving to a different country is always exciting, stimulating and a learning experience, it does come with some risks for your health and the health of your loved ones (if they move with you).

If you are lucky, you will find a good health care system in the hosting country (or even better than yours in the home country), but that does not automatically result in you accessing and using it! 

Main obstacles when accessing quality health care.

Let’s enumerate the main obstacles to access a foreign healthcare system:

  1. Language Barrier:  Communication is crucial in every interaction between patients and health care professionals. Nevertheless, do not forget that medications or illnesses are named completely different in many cases. Thus, if you move to a country or region with a different language and you need health care services, the possible language barrier can negatively affect your experience at some points or during the whole process.
  2. Cultural differences: health care is always provided in a social context, where cultural norms and expressions take place. Hence, there can be misunderstandings and misinterpretations due to a lack of knowledge of the patien’s culture of vice versa. This is particularly clear during the first stages of the cultural shock that all expats experience in some degree when they move abroad.
  3. Lack of knowledge and information: There are not two equal health systems, and even in one country, different systems co-exist depending on the regions. When someone moves abroad there are a lot of things to learn about how to access health care services, where to find them, how to apply for coverage, etc.
  4. Reduced Social Network: believe it or not, most of the care related to health is provided by family members (our spouse, son, daughter, etc.) or friends, and this is called lay care. Unfortunately, more often than not, this network becomes restricted or absent when living abroad.  Lacking this network makes us more vulnerable to get sicker and need a hospital admission.
  5. Paperwork and bureaucracy: if you are new in a country, you will likely face multiple administrative obstacles to access health services. Some of them include the need of fulfillment of all the administrative and legal requirements for foreigners to access public services, the  lack of coverage by private health insurance or difficulties in getting prescriptions from pharmacies if you are new in the country.

So far, we have highlighted above some of the reasons why moving abroad makes much more difficult to access quality health services even in the best scenario of moving to a region with a well-developed and safe provision of health care.

However, the situation can be much worse; and that occurs when the health services of the host country are of poor quality, low availability, or at a very expensive cost.

Therefore, moving abroad and living in a foreign country lessen the accessibility to quality health care services, no matter where you move.

As a matter of fact, the stress related to leaving your country and adapting to a new place is another factor that contributes to make the move a potential threat to your good health.

A move is known to be among the most intense psychosocial stressors; that’s why adapting to the new country always takes months, if not years.

Moving to another region of the globe or to a country with a very different culture will likely have an impact on the way you eat, what you drink, your level of exercise, perhaps your exposure to sun, cold or heat, and it will often change your sleep patterns. Just think briefly if any of these changes of routine and environment could affect your current health status and how.

How to overcome these difficulties?

Now, let us explain how in SAMON we will help you overcome these difficulties:

  1. SAMON is specialized in the medical care of patients who have moved from their home countries, and it has all clinical resources to provide the best online care available to them.
  2. SAMON is run by doctors who have moved and lived abroad, to different countries and cultures, and have developed deep expertise in transcultural medicine. We are trained and used to work with people from literally all over the world.
  3. SAMON is a multilingual organization whose staff are all professionally and culturally competent in English and Spanish. We have some knowledge of Arabic and French too.
  4. In SAMON you will always have ongoing access to your Consultant Doctor. You will not be asked to explain your health issues or personal circumstances to different doctors every time and you will be treated by the same well-trained and experienced Consultant Doctor in each specialty.
  5. When needed, SAMON will help you navigate and access the health care system wherever you move. With flexibility and willingness to help, our doctors will provide you with medical reports, prescriptions, treatment summaries and the necessary guidance for you to get the health care you need.
  6. SAMON doctors have gone through processes of adaptation to different countries and cultures so we will not only empathize well with you but will also be able to share our experience with you when useful.

Note: the term expat is used here to indicate those people that leave their home country temporarily, rather than the term immigrant that normally implies moving to another country permanently.


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21 Feb
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