Editor's Note: Physicians Practice’s blog features contributions from members of the medical community. These blogs are an opportunity for professionals to engage with readers about a topic that is top of mind, whether it is practice management, experiences with patients, the industry, medicine in general, or healthcare reform. The opinions are that of the writers and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Physicians Practice or UBM.
Summer vacation season – the happiest and busiest time of year for many physicians and their families – is upon us. But getting caught up in the excitement of a summer adventure can make it easy to overlook the various risks to your assets and your family’s safety. Understanding and proactively managing these risks can help you ensure that your summer stays fun.
Our last discussion identified one specific set of liabilities that starts with Memorial Day during the so called ‘100 Deadliest Days’ of the year. Much of that information applied to the risks physicians and their families face at home and with automobiles in particular, but other risks are more specific to travel and vacation.
Health Insurance and Medical Care
Before traveling domestically or outside the United Sates (especially with infants or other vulnerable family members with chronic medical conditions), investigate the care available in a particular area, including emergency medical care, and decide if it will meet your needs. Most travelers are caught by surprise when they need medical care while away from home. Remember that many smartphones and vehicle navigation systems identify facilities for lodging, gas, and medical care in a given location.
Required prescriptions may not be available outside the United States or may be replaced with generics or even counterfeit versions. Plan carefully for such medication and avoid packing it in your checked luggage. Be prepared to replace a prescription that is lost, damaged, or stolen in transit.
Your health insurance may not be accepted where you are traveling, and some carriers require that you inform them of travel in advance. Depending on where you are going and the activities you plan to engage in, travel insurance that covers both treatment and the costs of emergency transport home or to a location that can offer skilled critical care may be worthwhile. Most major credit cards and some airlines offer optional coverage as well as additional coverage for illness, travel delays, and other emergencies.
Secure Your Home From Crime
Loose lips sink ships. The biggest risk we face in this area is one we inadvertently create for ourselves, usually with the help of social media. Keep an eye on what you and your family members are posting online and when. Announcing that you are all leaving for Hawaii for two weeks means that your home will be empty or identifies who will be home alone. The smartest time to share your adventures is when you are safely back home.
Make your home looks occupied and “normal.” Stop mail and newspaper delivery or have it picked up daily. Set timers so visible lights turn on and off, and secure pet doors and other possible access points to your home. Confirm that your alarm company has an emergency contact who will not be on the trip (most people list only themselves and their spouse) and who can check on your home and handle any issues that might come up while you are gone.
Be a Hard Target: Specific Personal & Financial Security Tips
1. Edit what’s in your wallet to as few cards as possible and avoid carrying extras like your social security card that could be used to steal your identity.
2. Write down the customer service phone numbers for the credit cards you carry and keep them separately from the cards in case they are lost or stolen (or even just demagnetized). Most carriers have international toll-free numbers and you may have to use a phone since you may not always have internet access.
3. Never leave any valuables, not even a camera, in plain sight. Use hotel safes and room safes where available and always lock your vehicle.
4. Before your travel, check if your watches, jewelry, and electronics are covered by your home owner's insurance or other specialty insurance. Make sure you know what's covered and avoid putting these items in your checked luggage.
5. Set up “text alerts” on your bank account and credit cards for any kind of unusual activity.
6. Be very cautious about using public internet connections and public computers while traveling. Avoid logging into your bank account if at all possible and change your passwords immediately upon your return for any accounts you logged into from exposed connections.
7. Set up passwords, remote-wipe capabilities, and tracking software like iPhone’s “Find My iPhone” before you travel. Millions of phones, computers, and tablets are left behind every year, and yours probably have personal info, photographs, etc. that you don’t want strangers to have.