One thing many RVers don’t plan for is getting sick while traveling and/or needing medical help on the road. So, what happens if you or a travel buddy need medical care while on the road? How can you find a good doctor or get the quality medical help you need?
Plan healthcare—just in case
RVers plan their travel routes, secure RV camp reservations, plan what to pack, and schedule trip activities. That’s a lot of advanced planning. We don’t usually plan on getting sick. If you are in good health and have kept up to date with annual health visits, getting sick while on vacation probably doesn’t even enter your mind. Maybe it should.
The CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) recommends that you make a plan ahead of time. Know where you’ll get health care when traveling. They make this recommendation especially for seniors, people with underlying health conditions, pregnant women, and anyone who will be traveling for more than six months. You can find a full list of their recommendations here.
If you take daily medications, you bring them on your trip. In addition, you may pack over-the-counter products like Tylenol, supplements or vitamins, and first-aid supplies. Depending on where you go and what you plan on doing you may also pack bug spray, anti-itch cream and sunblock. These items will usually cover any minor problems.
There may be times when you need more help than the trusty medicine cabinet can give. Then what?
Suggestions to get medical help on the road
- Contact your regular medical doctor. He may offer online video appointments or be willing to advise you over the phone, based on your health history. Perhaps your personal doctor knows a colleague working in a location near you or can recommend a nearby medical center.
- Use telemedicine services. Some healthcare providers offer telemedicine services, which allow patients to consult with a doctor remotely. Telemedicine services can be especially useful for minor illnesses or follow-up appointments.
- Visit a retail clinic. Retail clinics, such as those located in pharmacies, offer basic medical services like vaccinations, check-ups, and treatment for minor illnesses or injuries. They are often open outside of regular business hours and can be a convenient option.
- Urgent care clinic. Generally speaking, an urgent care clinic is a better choice than a doctor’s office or hospital emergency room. Not only is the clinic easier on your wallet, but the wait time to see a doctor may be shorter too. Many urgent care clinics now have x-ray machines and lab diagnostic abilities. Urgent care facilities can prescribe meds, attend to minor cuts or lacerations, and set simple bone breaks. If you need a higher level of care, they will give you a referral and tell you where to go.
- Hospital emergency room. No doubt the local hospital ER will have access to x-ray machines and diagnostic equipment. You may experience an extended wait time. Check to see if the hospital offers online check-in. This feature may allow you to spend most of your wait time in the comfort of your RV rather than hours in a waiting room.
- Local physician. Your insurance company will have a list of doctors and clinics along with their locations that are covered on your insurance plan. Once you determine the doctor you’d like to see, call their office directly to make an appointment. Explain your symptoms and request a day and time to go in. (Remember: Just because the doctor is covered by your insurance doesn’t mean they are taking new patients.)
- Ask around for recommendations. Your camp host or RV neighbors may have suggestions or be able to give you the name of a doctor, clinic, or urgent care facility they’ve used in the past.
When you need to go to the hospital or call 911
It’s important to know when to skip all the above and go directly to a hospital or call 911. (Ask the camp host for the local emergency number if 911 isn’t offered in the area.) If you or someone with you has any of the below symptoms, call for emergency help or make arrangements to go to the hospital. Do NOT drive yourself if you have any of these symptoms:
- Chest pain, left jaw or left arm pain;
- Shortness of breath;
- Stroke symptoms (sudden numbness/weakness in any part of the body, slurred speech, loss of vision/balance);
- Severe allergic reaction (difficulty breathing or swallowing, swelled lips);
- Burns or cuts that won’t stop bleeding;
- Pregnancy complications (vaginal bleeding, abdominal/pelvic pain);
- Confusion or altered mental state; or
- Loss of consciousness.
Planning for a trip can add to the enjoyment of traveling. Planning to get medical help while on the road might not be as much fun, but it will give you peace of mind. It might even save your life!
Is health care really that bad in the US? I might have second thoughts in future about travelling around by RV. I must be blessed, but in the past when I have toured the US by road I never gave health care much thought.
Some politicians over here knock our mainly-free, UK National Health Service, (probably because they would prefer a privatised pay-as-you-go business model like yours so that they can split it up and hand it over to their crooked buddies to profit from) but it is really great. Since healthcare in the UK was Nationalised in 1948, nobody here has the worry that should they get ill, would they have the right and sufficient health cover and be carrying the right documentation should they have an accident or are found unconscious. Our NHS is an excellent, free to all, regardless of Nationality, income or social status service on demand.
What a shame that in the 21st Century you still seem to be living in the Dark Ages.
The problem with most “emergency rooms” is that if you’re not bleeding or having a heart attack you go in line behind the hangnails, slivers, and sniffle folks. They are full of issues that are nowhere NEAR an emergency.
Consider an evacuation method to get you and yours home in case the worst happens.
I found an app for your phone called “Zocdoc” and it was very helpful in finding the right doctor or specialist in whatever area we are in. You can also choose your medical plan or provider from their database and it will show you those doctors in that system. You can see when the doctor has available openings and you can make the appointment right in the app.
Thanks Ron for the tip on Zocdoc. I’d heard of it, and have just added that 5-star rated app to my RV mobile apps. Teladoc is a similar app in that space, that focuses on “virtual” (video/audio) visits with physicians and nurse practitioners. I added that one too 😀
Never be afraid of calling 911.
“Medics would rather be called and not needed than needed and not called”.
Think about it if you ever have a doubt!!
Video appointments, check them out in your home state before you depend on them. In Michigan you must physically be in Michigan to have a video appointment with a doctor there. I know during the Pandemic I had several video and phone call appointments. For each one I had to swear that I was in Michigan. Sounds ridiculous doesn’t it, but that’s the way it is.
Is there a national list of medical centers that have RV parking all the way up to 45 foot with 50 amps?
They’re medical centers, not RV campgrounds. Mayo Clinic Florida, near where I live, has patients coming from all over the Southeast and beyond. It is very RV friendly, having a special section for RVs of any size to park in, but no power or water. Think of it like parking in back of a Cracker Barrel. There may be a few medical centers that offer more, but it’s not reasonable to expect it from any of them.
Think about this: As soon as you arrive at an RV Park, campground, or boondocking spot, make note of your street address, spot number, or even GPS coordinates, and put them someplace where you can access them in a hurry.
I recently had cause to call 911 for a medical emergency involving my wife, and while the seconds ticked away, for the life of me, I couldn’t remember the address where I was staying.
It’s also a good idea to send that information to your next of kin, just in case.
I had to call 911 at 4:00am in Mobile and did not know the name or address of the CG. I ended up giving them directions of how I got there from the interstate. Then I turned on my headlights so they could find me in the park.
I have a great app called “where am I” that gives you the address, elevation, GPS and etc for your current location.
I mounted a small 5″ x 7″ dry erase board next to the entry door. Put campground, site number and GPS if available. Also any special campground (host or whoever) emergency number other than 911.