1 September 2009
Q. What should I do about obtaining the records of a patient who was treated abroad or who lives abroad?
These days, people travel abroad for both business and pleasure, as well as for quite specific medical treatments. This so called ‘medical tourism' is becoming increasingly common for dental treatment as patients travel abroad to avail themselves of cheaper treatment in other countries. Most commonly, patients travel for implant treatment and they may do this by returning to their home country or to a different country that offers the facility. Websites for these clinics often provide treatment as a package trip that also includes hotel accommodation.
Patients may then return to you to continue their routine care. Sometimes they also require emergency care in the event of pain, infection, failure of the restorations or broken and damaged implant components. Patients may also choose to attend your practice simply because they are on holiday in your area or may be working nearby on a short contract but have their own dentist in their home country.
All these factors can sometimes make the management of these patients quite difficult, particularly where complex care has been provided or the patient is in the middle of treatment elsewhere but no records are available. Patients do sometimes take their dental records with them if they are working abroad for periods of time and this is of course very useful and to be encouraged.
If, as a clinician, you feel it is important to see the patient's existing dental records in order to provide treatment beyond emergency care, you should try to do so. This would be particularly relevant when dealing with problems that arise from implants that have been placed by another clinician. It is possible to scan key amendments (eg. records) and images (eg. x-rays) or they may already exist in electronic form. This facilitates an email between the two clinicians if the information is required urgently, in the best interests of the patient.