The requirements for organizing overseas patient transports

Reading Time: 5 minutes

Illnesses and injuries are unforeseeable events in life. Even if they are in perfect health, anyone can suddenly become critically ill or severely injured. Such unfortunate events may sometimes necessitate overseas patient transportation to a (better equipped) healthcare facility. When traveling long distances for any diagnostic procedure or to receive advanced/specialized medical care, an air ambulance is frequently the preferred mode of transportation, with commercial medical flights being recommended only for stable patients.

The key points to remember about long-distance overseas patient transportation:

  • There are two main options for overseas patient transportation: medical repatriation and medical evacuation, with medical tourism being a subcategory of the latter. All three have the same primary goal: to receive urgent or specialized medical care in better-equipped healthcare facilities.
  • A fit-to-fly assessment, sharing the necessary administrative documents, and providing the patient's Covid-19 travel documents, if needed, are the three basic requirements for overseas patient transportation.
  • There are 7 helpful hints for selecting the best air ambulance provider. Learn more about them by clicking here.

What are the motivations for overseas patient transportation?

Overseas patient transportation is possible in three scenarios:

  • medical repatriation
  • medical evacuation and
  • medical tourism

The primary goal of all three is to receive urgent or specialized medical care in more modern healthcare facilities.

medical evacuation plane

Following a medical emergency, patients may express a desire to be treated in another country. Their overseas patient transportation is justified in three situations:

Medical Repatriation

Medical repatriation is the process of returning a sick or injured person to their home country, particularly if they cannot receive the necessary medical treatment locally or if their condition worsens to the point where they are unable to fly commercially. Indeed, if you find yourself in a foreign country with insufficient medical facilities, you may prefer to return home for long-term medical treatment, where:

  • Your loved ones are closer;
  • Healthcare may be more affordable or universal, such as in the UK, France or Germany;
  • Language does not obstruct proper communication between patients and healthcare providers, making it easier to determine the appropriate level of care.

However, receiving high-quality medical care isn't the only reason for prompt medical repatriation. Returning to their home country for medical attention, whether via scheduled flight or dedicated air ambulance, assists patients in avoiding healthcare debt. This can occur when their medical insurance is not accepted in foreign countries, resulting in skyrocketing medical bills, as most hospitals require full payment before releasing a patient.

Medical Evacuation

Medical evacuation, also known as medevac or inter-hospital transfer, is the planned transportation of patients from the sending facility in their home country to another hospital which is likely in another country for further medical attention. Because such advanced care is not available in their home country, and the patient may be too ill or injured to withstand the rigors of commercial flights, they are frequently transported by a medical plane or helicopter. A medical team is on hand to care for the patient throughout the evacuation.

ambulance jet

Medical Tourism

Medical tourism is defined as traveling abroad for health screenings and advanced tests, as well as treatment of specific conditions such as cancer or cardiovascular disease. Planned in advance as compared to medical evacuation, it is becoming increasingly popular, even in developed destinations such as the United States, where there appears to be no shortage of medical treatment. High healthcare costs are the most common reason for these trips, but other reasons include:

  • Insufficient medical insurance;
  • A lack of specialist-driven procedures;
  • A lack of access to cutting-edge technology;
  • The desire to seek alternative treatments that are not available/approved in the patient’s home country.

If flying commercially isn't an option in any of these three scenarios, you might want to consider hiring an air ambulance. Our clients are frequently transported from countries that lack specialized medical care to countries that do, such as the United Kingdom or the United States. Furthermore, our medical teams are fluent in English, French, Spanish, Italian, German, Portuguese, Russian, Polish, Turkish, Dutch, Greek, Romanian and four Arabic dialects, making it easier to communicate with clients and doctors from all over the world.

What are the prerequisites for overseas patient transportation?

Three things that might be necessary for overseas patient transportation:

  • a fit-to-fly assessment, in some cases
  • the required administrative documents and
  • providing the patient’s Covid-19 travel documents, if required. That is not always the case since this is dependent on the country that you are traveling to. Most of the time only a rapid test is required. 

Fitness to fly

Before flying, the patient's medical condition is carefully assessed to determine whether they are fit to fly. This is especially important if the overseas patient transportation is provided by our medical escort service on a commercial airliner. Recent surgical wounds, psychiatric issues, respiratory problems, and infectious diseases are examples of pre-existing medical conditions that may be exacerbated by the airport's (crowds and rush) and cabin's unfamiliar environments (low levels of humidity and oxygen), thus rendering the patient unfit to fly. This is because, in the event of an emergency, the medical attention, equipment, and medication available onboard a scheduled airliner may not be adequate

medical documents

As a result of the fit-to-fly assessment, we can determine which specialized drugs and medical equipment the patient's medical escort will be allowed to carry, as per the airline’s guidelines. It also helps us determine whether a commercial stretcher, which allows the patient to lie down for the duration of the flight, should be provided.

If an ambulance jet is used for overseas patient transportation, we can provide specialized medical equipment and dispatch a specialist medical crew based on the patient's condition. A coronavirus isolation unit, a pediatric incubator, or simply adjusting the air pressure to reduce the negative effects of cabin pressure for patients with pulmonary issues can be included in some cases.

Share all the required administrative documents

Whether you are traveling within or outside of your home country, we will require proper identification papers. Bring your ID, passport, and, if required, a travel visa. In case you didn't know, we can help you apply for (emergency) visas to help you navigate the administrative procedures you might be unfamiliar with.

Provide the appropriate Covid-19 travel documents

Furthermore, because the coronavirus pandemic has altered international travel, you may be required to bring your Covid-19 travel documents, such as Covid-19 test results, vaccination records, or digital vaccine certificates. Before you take the test, make sure your destination accepts it.

7 helpful hints for selecting the best air ambulance company

Overseas patient transportation can quickly become overwhelming. To make the process easier, we've compiled a list of 7 helpful hints for selecting the best air ambulance company.


Don't put your life in the hands of just any company when it comes to air medical transport. Only the most reliable providers have the required licenses and accreditations. We follow the ISO-9001 Quality Management Standard to ensure the highest level of safety for our patients. Our quality management has been certified by TÜV Süd and Bureau Veritas. We also collaborate with the Flight Safety Foundation on their global aviation safety campaign.

Services offered

There are no two medical scenarios that are the same. As a result, you'll need to work with a company that offers a variety of services tailored to your specific medical transport needs. We provide a comprehensive range of all-inclusive services, such as air ambulances, commercial airline medical escorts and international commercial airline stretcher transports.


Experience counts when it comes to overseas patient transports. Choose a provider who has the necessary training and experience.Our medical teams are well-versed in critical medical procedures such as international medical escorts, global medical logistics, outpatient medical care, life flight medevac operations and medicine transportation. We only work with the most skilled professionals in the industry, such as certified air medical flight crews, world-renowned pilots, and qualified case managers.

Round-the-clock support and fast response times

Emergencies and non-emergencies can occur at any time of day or night. If the unthinkable happens, you should work with a company that provides 24-hour service. Our medical flights and support staff are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Quality patient care 

You want to work with an air transportation expert who puts patients and their families first. You can be confident that with our compassionate and attentive medical representatives by your side, you and your loved ones will receive the personalized and professional care you deserve.

medical document

Ambulance fleet

Air transportation relies heavily on its fleet. Check that they have advanced aircraft to get you to your destination safely and quickly. Our air ambulances are medically configured and outfitted with cutting-edge medical technology and life-support systems.

Reputation and testimonials

There are numerous air medical service providers from which to choose. Look for a company with a spotless reputation, one that their clients can rely on. Testimonials are a great place to start when evaluating this criterion. We don't want you to simply believe us. So, check out our feedback page to see what our customers think of us.

Do you have any additional questions?

If you couldn't find what you were looking for, please visit our FAQ page.

Contact us today!

Contact the experts at Medical Air Service to learn more about our medical repatriation and evacuation services for patients in need of care.

Get in touch now