PHILIPSBURG, Sint Maarten — On Tuesday July 10th, Social & Health Insurances SZV hosted a Facebook Live broadcast on the topic of the rights and duties of patients and companions when on medical referral abroad. The speakers of the session were Mrs. Parveen Boertje – Unit Manager Customer Service and Communications at SZV and Mr. Reginald Willemsberg – Interim Unit Manager Operations at SZV. The service of medical referrals abroad by SZV is a very important one, where many misconceptions are discussed within the community. SZV opted for a Facebook Live broadcast to ensure that the correct information is communicated, directly to its customers and to allow for easy replay of the recording and information sharing.

“It is very important to us that our customers take a leading role in their wellbeing before, during and after a medical referral abroad. By highlighting these rights and duties, we aim to empower our customers.” – Reginald Willemsberg, Interim Unit Manager Operations SZV

The Facebook Live session highlighted the rights and duties of SZV patients and companions when travelling abroad for a medical referral. These policies can be found on the website of SZV www.szv.sx. The main rights of the SZV insured patient referred abroad are; to receive medical care and to participate in discussions regarding your care; to receive information about the care given to you in a way that you understand, to obtain a copy of your medical records and to report any concerns regarding your care and safety to the hospital or third party logistics coordinator abroad.

Interim Unit Manager Operations, Reginald Willemsberg explained during the session that the medical referral process starts with the physician. “The treating physician initiates the medical referral process.” The role of the physician starts here and includes; the responsibility for the continuity of care of the patient/insured, the responsibility to ensure that the patient’s illness, condition and level of urgency is accurately reported to SZV. The referral process is delayed when a submitted request report is not complete or required information not clearly communicated.

Willemsberg gave several examples of cases encountered by SZV and the consequences of inappropriate behavior of patients and companions. The policy of SZV states the consequences of non-adherence to the set obligations, common practice of medical insurance companies and health care providers. Patients referred abroad are explained their rights and duties and are requested to acknowledge receipt of this during their intake meeting. The non-adherence clause in the policy reads: “Repeated (two or more) documented reports of inappropriate behavior will result in termination of your treatment abroad and that you then will lose all rights to receive compensation for further medical treatment for the condition for which I was sent abroad.”

The following obligations for both patients and companions were highlighted during the session: to have a valid passport and obtain the necessary visas (if applicable), patient must have a valid SZV insurance card, patient must travel with the medical file and at least 1 month of medication used, to behave appropriately and in accordance with the rules and regulations of the third party logistics coordinators, hospital, hotels, and with the laws of the designated country for treatment abroad, to not smoke in the hotels and hospitals, to not buy and use illegal drugs, and to not bring prostitutes and other guests to the apartment or hotel room, to treat the third party logistics coordinators, the hospital, medical staff (doctors, nurses) and hotel staff with respect.

Based on the medical indication, an SZV insured patient, which is referred abroad, may have the right to have a companion travel with them. The companion has obligations to adhere to when complying for this task. During the broadcast a list of these were outlined, with special attention to the following; to ensure that you have medical travel insurance, to request and receive approval for vacation days from your employer for the trip abroad. “SZV does not provide sick-leave compensation for companions.” Companions must accompany the insured to all doctors and treatment appointments where indicated, if the insured is hospitalized to stay with the insured or visit minimally once a day for 3 hours or twice a day. Another important role of the companion is to communicate with and update the family of the insured regarding the medical condition or concerns of the insured and to provide moral support for the insured.

Willemsberg also touched on the role and type of service provided by the SZV medical referrals division. “This team is responsible for Patient engagement and Customer service”. Once a medical referral abroad request is approved, patients and companions have their mandatory intake meeting at SZV. It is of utmost importance that this meeting is attended when invited. Locally, the team is mainly tasked with logistical and administrative activities such as; calling client to schedule appointments, appointment reminders calls, relaying of information to the client regarding their individual medical referral.

Boertje delivered her speech on the complaint procedure, contacting SZV and self-service options to customers. The complaint procedure for medical referrals abroad offers various options for our customers. “When abroad and with a complaint regarding the medical or services received, the first point of contact is the designated health care provider abroad or the international office. During your intake meeting at SZV you will receive the contact details of this person/team. This contact is the contact that will be able to address and process your complaint for you.” Customers also have the option to file a complaint via the complaint form on the website www.szv.sx. Customers who are unable to file a complaint online, can contact SZV to make an appointment with the Complaint officer.

Boertje closed the session by expressing: “with the collaborative effort of our partner stakeholders and customers, we at SZV can serve our client optimally. This is a collective task. SZV has expanded its access points for customers by being available via different channels such as its website www.szv.sx, Facebook page and e-mail. Customers are welcomed to call or visit the office, but are encouraged to make use of the online tools for easy self-service access to SZV.”