The Zika epidemic has hit especially hard in Brazil, the host country of the 2016 Summer Olympic Games. Fortunately, Brazil also has some of the world’s best hospitals and is exceptionally sophisticated about admitting and providing care to foreign visitors and accommodating their own national insurance plans.
A tour of the Albert Einstein Medical Center in Sao Paolo provides a good idea of the capabilities available. Einstein has a dedicated International Patient Center with staff who speak English, Spanish and other languages. They have established relations with my U.S. and international Insurance carriers and can advise patients about how to apply their insurance plans most effectively. And they can make sure you get the documents you would need to submit a claim. If necessary, the center can also make arrangements for seriously ill patients to be transported safely to their own physician.
Einstein has a large staff of patient service assistants who are also trained as translators. They can guide patients to the clinic they need, confirm appointments and billing, and escort visitors to on-site services such as the pharmacy or physiotherapy center.
This large hospital has over 500 doctors and 5,000 employees in total. Its facilities include an Intensive Care Unit and specialized medical services in:
The hospital also hosts a health education center and is a model of art and music therapy approaches to wellness. Provocative and colorful contemporary Brazilian art brightens the entire facility. And frequent mini-concerts of Brazilian music add an energetic beat.
While Brazil is fortunate to have many world class medical centers, they are already observing increases in patients seeking elective procedures and preventative health care in advance of peak period bottlenecks when the Olympic Games take place. Many doctors and nurses will be leaving their regular posts during the Olympics to work at the Olympic Athlete’s Village and on-site at sports complexes. So advance preparation such as researching providers that accept your health insurance plan and contact numbers should be essential preparation for all international Olympic visitors. Be sure to have a copy of your passport and health insurance card readily available for admission.
In addition, although all major Brazilian hospitals accept credit cards, many individual doctors do not. Since the daily limit at many ATM’s is often between US$150 and $200, having a second account, or a separate savings account that is linked to the same ATM card, can be a helpful way to have enough cash if you need to see a doctor. US$150 is a typical charge for an office visit with a single outpatient service. Some routine procedures, such as vaccinations and booster shots, cost less than fifty dollars. That is very inexpensive by U.S. standards and will allow you to establish a patient record account at a good hospital in case you need more extensive care later in your visit.