What Do You Do When You Get Sick On the Road?

With the state of our health care systems across the nation, dealing with emergency situations is full of complexity, uncertainty, and doubt.

Supply chain professionals are on the road a lot.  As a supply chain consultant, it’s not unusual for me to travel 3-4 weeks out of the month, often to international locations. We are also planners, always developing alternative supply chain solutions in case of disaster or other business disruption. But what happens when we get sick or injured on the road?

Getting sick while traveling happened to me a few times, usually from food poisoning after eating fast food or at some questionable place. The remedy is generally to take over-the-counter medications that I carry with me, stay in the hotel room, order room service, and sleep.

But this time was different. Somehow, I got an infection in my leg. My regular doctor at home put me on antibiotics, and told me to rest for a few days. “Silly doctor,” I said, “I have to travel across country and deliver a workshop in two days. I cannot stay home.”  Against the doctor’s strong warning, I got on a plane and went anyway.

By the time I reached my destination, I was in screaming pain, my leg was swollen and I decided to drive myself to the emergency room in the small town where I was working. Along the way, I wondered if my California insurance was transferrable to this place. What if I had been working in China or Vietnam? Would my insurance apply there? I had failed to plan for such an emergency anywhere.

With the state of our health care systems across the nation, dealing with emergency situations is full of complexity, uncertainty, and doubt.  If I had planned better, I would have been better prepared for all the “administrivia” that comes along with an ER or urgent care clinic. I was far away from home, (but still in the US), in pain, and a bit scared.  Still, I was glad I was in the US with our familiar healthcare approach.

I spend lots of time in Asia and that started me thinking about what to do if I were to get sick overseas. As many of us already know, if you get sick in Asia, the best thing to do is try to get to Singapore, where healthcare is among the very best in the world.  But if that isn’t possible, you should get local health care from available hospitals recommended by the US Consulate or brand-name American hotels such as Marriott or Hilton, then come home as soon as possible.

We know that supply chains are different around the world and so are health care systems.  Just as we plan in our supply chains, the best strategy is to plan for your travel health care and have some alternative strategies outlined just in case. That means understanding what your insurance or health care system will or won’t provide, what documentation you need to bring with you, and developing a strategy for what to do just in case you do get sick.

We need to take care of our supply chains while traveling as well as ourselves. Planning and preparation are the keys to the best possible response.