A travel medicine clinic should,
- Address both preventive and potential developing medical problems of travelers at risk from dangers inherent to their itinerary and trip activities as well as from pre-existing medical problems or age-related concerns.
- Expeditiously and expertly handle medical problems, particularly acquired infectious illnesses, that emerged during or after-travel.
- Maintain a full inventory of all U.S.-approved vaccines such that delaying or rescheduling an appointment never occurs due to vaccine or medication supply shortages.
- Optimally, have an on-site pharmacy to allow one-stop, comprehensive services.
- Provide all required immunization services for the most unusual travel exposures, but also the ability to provide targeted physical exams and the required documents for a variety of occupational assignments in health-hostile, remote areas.
A comprehensive, expert travel medicine organization (not a “shots” clinic) will have these features,
- Medical Director: The clinic should have a “hands-on” director who oversees support staff, determines medical policies and procedures, and assures that the medical standards of care are the highest.Many travel medicine clinics are store-front franchises “directed” by semi-retired physicians who never practiced clinical medicine (radiologists, etc.), family practitioners (who took a weekend course in travel medicine), or an occupational medicine doctor (who has little or no experience with infectious diseases or other acute medical problems). Some “travel clinics” are directed by nurses or pharmacists with cursory training and no license to diagnose or treat. A legitimate director has training, experience, and certification in infectious diseases, tropical disease, general medicine (internal medicine, preferably), and travel medicine. Check on the qualifications of the director.
- On-Duty, Qualified Medical Specialty Physicians:
The travel clinic should have on-site, available specialists who can expertly handle all pre- and post-travel medical issues, including ill patients and those with possible non-traditional problems not usually encountered in the U.S. medical care system (such as malaria, typhoid fever, dengue fever, etc.).Such problems are often time-critical, with potentially seriously damaging or fatal outcomes with delayed diagnosis or inexpert decision-making.Furthermore, a qualified specialist may often minimize medical costs because their comfort level with unorthodox situations is higher and they are less likely to reflexively hospitalize someone because they have returned from overseas with a fever – an action often triggered by the physician’s lack of confidence with the possibilities and true medical risks. Over-testing and over- or mistreatment would be quite possible.On-site physicians should handle the initial evaluation and ongoing management of patients’ medical problems at the travel clinic, only referring the travel patient for specific services outside his specialty qualifications.