What is Medical Repatriation?

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The meaning of medical repatriation 

Repatriation is the process where a person is taken back to their home country. Quite often, most people require medical repatriation services when they get injured or ill when traveling and cannot get the medical treatment they need locally. As a result, they have to be flown back home. This is a case of medically necessary repatriation. 

What do you have to know about medical repatriation services

  • Transporting someone sick or injured back home is called medical repatriation
  • Medical Air Service offers medical repatriation services
  • We can conduct medical repatriation on commercial flights and air ambulances
  • The type of medical repatriation service you need depends on your medical condition

Doctor with patient and his family

What are medical repatriation services? 

Medical repatriation is to the transportation of someone with a medical condition back home with some form of medical assistance. Medical repatriation services include all the operational and organizational aspects related to that transport. 

Medical Air Service clients are often repatriated from countries without specialist medical care, into countries such as the UK or the United States, which are well known for their specialist care facilities.

Quick medical repatriation back to the country of origin isn't limited to receiving high-quality medical care. Emergency repatriation is essential in case the patient's condition worsens, making them unfit to fly. Thus finding the right facility and sorting out all necessary paperwork as quickly as possible is paramount.

Secondly, it helps patients avoid healthcare debt in cases where patient medical insurance is not accepted in foreign countries. This could result in ballooning medical bills, with most hospitals requiring payment in full before the patient's release.

Medical Repatriation vs Medical Evacuation

Although these two terms may seem interchangeable, there are key differences. Medical evacuation (or medevac) is the process of transporting a patient to a medical facility since specialist care is not locally available. Medical repatriation, on the other hand, is when we transport a patient who is medically fit to fly, back to their home country.

The main options available for our medical repatriation services are air ambulance flights either through ambulance aircraft, helicopters, or business/first class on a commercial flight.

Repatriation is an unpleasant reality & something that no one ever plans for - a process that we treat with care and professionalism through our qualified team, and our medically equipped fleet.

Challenges During the Medical Repatriation Process

There are a myriad of challenges in organizing such a mission given its global scale. Medical repatriation companies must overcome potential challenges, the biggest of which is the language barrier. Depending on the country, language barriers present a unique challenge.

These issues will often hamper proper communication with physicians and healthcare staff, which could make it harder to set the right level of care. To get around this, Medical Air Service has team members from twelve countries who are fluent in English, French, Spanish, Italian, German, Portuguese, Russian, Polish, Turkish, Dutch, Greek and four Arabic dialects. This variety makes it possible to communicate with clients and doctors all over the world, facilitating transfers, regardless of where you are across the globe. 

Other potential problems include weather conditions, political unrest, and restricted air space.

That said, however, the safety of our patients is our top priority at all times. As part of our medical repatriation services, we do thorough due diligence before any flight and work with authorities in the country of repatriation to ensure safe transportation for all our patients.

We can also take care of the transfer of COVID-19 positive individuals in our air ambulances. Depending on the person's health and medical needs, he will either be transported in a private jet or a medical flight in an isolation device, in the case of severe coronavirus symptoms. A doctor will be onboard to provide assistance and care during the journey. 

How We Ensure a Patient is Stable Enough for Medical Repatriation

Before any flight, we liaise with a physician in the hospital where the patient is admitted and carry out a pre-flight medical evaluation. Patient records and pre-existing conditions are analyzed to ensure patients are medically fit to fly.

For patients who require intensive care in-flight, our fleet of ground and air ambulances are fitted with all of the technology & equipment present in your hospital room.

We also travel at higher altitudes than is typical for regular flights for minimal turbulence and a smoother, gentler flight. Additionally, we can adjust cabin pressure which is especially crucial during the transportation of  patients with certain medical conditions like pneumothorax or anemia.

Finally, qualified medical professionals accompany our patients for careful monitoring, continued treatment during the flight.

Ambulance jet

How We Pick the Medical Repatriation hospital

Your medical repatriation destination is mostly dependent on factors such as patient condition, stability, health care services available, and lastly, preference.

As part of our medical repatriation services, we can offer consultation regarding this. We work in tandem with the patient and their family members to pick a hospital for medical repatriation and may make a recommendation based on our experience with various facilities in the country of repatriation. The rule of thumb, however, is to pick a hospital that is closest to the patient's city of residence, which is more convenient for long-term treatments. 

Once a suitable facility is picked, we work with them to ensure they accept the patient, and find alternatives should they not.

Medical emergencies are traumatic for everyone involved; thus, our goal is to shoulder as much of the burden as we possibly can by providing assistance and sorting out all the particulars around the repatriation process.

Our medical repatriation services also include a bed-to-bed service. This implies that we take care of all transport options, including ground ambulances to and from the airport in both countries. Moreover, we take care of getting the right medical personnel, liaising with doctors and hospitals locally and in the country of repatriation, plus sorting out any paperwork involved. We can also assist you in dealing with the insurance company if you have travel insurance that covers repatriation or repatriation insurance.

Does insurance coverage include medical repatriation? 

While at Medical Air Service, in some cases we can advise you on procedures related to filing an insurance claim for your medical repatriation, the final decision lies with your insurance company.

It should be noted that many insurance companies make the distinction between medically necessary repatriations and medically reasonable repatriations. In most cases, medically necessary repatriations are covered by insurance since it implies that proper medical care cannot be obtained in the patient’s current location. 

Even if your insurance company is not agreeable to covering the medical repatriation costs, we can still organize the medical flight for you. The cost should then be borne out of pocket. 

How Much Does Medical Repatriation Cost?

The cost of medical repatriation depends on a plethora of factors such as distance, method being used to repatriate the patient, his condition etc. As such, it's not a one-size-fits-all blanket cost but preferably one that's customized to each individual's unique needs.

Contact us for your medical repatriation

If you find yourself requiring our medical repatriation services and are in need of an air ambulance, our team is available 24/7 to assist you and provide you the support you deserve.

Get in touch now