International SOS provides a physician referral and emergency evacuation service for overseas travelers. Evacuation insurance pays for medical transport should a traveler need to be whisked out of a jungle or other foreign land for medical treatment. It is always their evacuation insurance that we think of when we hear their name, not their referral service. We first heard of them and a couple of similar companies while attending travel medicine workshops in preparation for our big biking adventure abroad. But, unexpectedly, we became big users of their referral service in the fall of 2003 (and fortunately not their evacuation insurance).
While shopping for a credit card with good international benefits in preparation for our travels, we learned that some credit card companies included evacuation insurance in their benefit package. (Most people assumed we spent a lot of time on route planning, of which we did almost none. Instead, our months and years of preparation went into positioning ourselves for as care-free of travel as possible.) A friend had recommended Merrill Lynch as having a good traveler’s benefits and indeed theirs was the best bundle of goodies we found. One such goodie is the 100 service-charge-free ATM withdrawals abroad per year. Another goodie was receiving member privileges with SOS, including evacuation insurance, at no additional charge.
Though very conscious of the importance of evacuation insurance, we had forgotten the physician referral service that SOS offers. Had we remembered it before, we would have used them a couple of times in the past. But it wasn’t until Bill became concerned about having a tumor while in the Czech Republic that the referral service benefit bubbled up to our consciousness. Since then have used SOS for 3 different medical maladies in the space of about 6 weeks and highly recommend them. One doctor’s English was very rusty and with one doctor we were puzzled about their choice of specialists for us, but we always left appoints satisfied with the quality of medical care.
It is quite a service SOS offers. We have a 24-hour-a-day contact number in the US for them. If we can crack the code at this end to place a collect call, SOS will pick up the tab for the international call. A referral nurse screens the call then pages a doctor. Usually we have spoken with the doctor in a minute or 2 and once the doctor got back to us in about 5 minutes. The doctor listens to our story then clears us for an appointment. We usually have the choice of having them make the appointment for us or getting the names of several doctors and making the appointment ourselves. We’ve done it both ways and both approaches have worked for us. The SOS staff is a flexible, competent, and responsive group of professionals and we always feel well taken care of when we call.
SOS doesn’t pay for the doctor’s visits, only an evacuation in an emergency situation. But they offer great support services in addition to physician referrals. We called them a couple of times for advice when things went awry with my skin surgery and we needed some second opinions. In addition, I faxed them my French pathology report to have it translated into English and they faxed it back to me. They have been a wonderful resource for us and we highly recommend them.
Should you want to check-out SOS for your own future travels or see what the full extent of their services is, their contact information is as follows:
8 Neshaminy Interplex Suite, 207
Philadelphia, PA 19116
Voice: 1 -215-245-4707, Fax: 1-215-244-9617