‘Snowbirds’: Coordinate Medical Care Before Traveling

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If you follow the example of the birds, and fly south for the winter, it’s critical that you coordinate your medical care – especially cancer treatment.

“For cancer patients, coordination of care for the time away is a process that should begin before you travel,” says Steven Roshon, MD, Department Chair for Hematology and Medical Oncology at Cleveland Clinic Weston in Florida.

1. Set up a doctor’s appointment before travel

“It’s very important to talk to your treating physician about coordinating care wherever you’re going,” Dr. Roshon says. He says patients should set up an appointment with their current physician before traveling, and as early as possible because schedules get especially busy at this time. At this appointment, you and your doctor should discuss any issues, such as scheduled treatments or health concerns, that would prevent you from traveling or affect the timing of your trip.

2. Ask about a doctor to see while away

“The treating physician may recommend a physician you can see while away,” Dr. Roshon says. “That’s a great way to go because continuity of care is established.” In addition, if your doctor can’t supply a name, Dr. Roshon recommends asking friends and family.

3. Transfer medical records

Ensuring that medical records are properly transferred is a key to continuity of care,” Dr. Roshon says. For example, Cleveland Clinic patients who stay within the system in its south Florida locations can provide physicians with instant access to their blood tests, imaging, chemotherapy and other information.

Patients from other hospitals that use Epic for their electronic medical records also can electronically share those records — a feature that’s built into all Epic systems. “If you are not able to share electronic health records, it’s always a good idea to bring some physical records — your chemotherapy flow sheet, or pathology reports,” he says.

4. Double-check insurance

Once you’ve set up an appointment, check in with your insurance carrier to ensure that the treatment facility or doctor is within your network and that other insurance-related problems won’t arise. “Even in the case of Medicare, it’s a good idea to establish your eligibility,” Dr. Roshon says.

5. Plan for the trip home

Be sure to also update your doctor when you return. “When you are prepared to head back north, make sure there will be good continuity in that direction, as well, in terms of records and summaries of care,” Dr. Roshon says.

More information

Guidance From our Cancer Answer Nurses

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