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Doctors on demand: why digital healthcare is great news for expats

When you live abroad, one of the biggest challenges is working out the local healthcare system. You may be unsure how to arrange to see a doctor – or short of time to squeeze in an appointment once you’ve found out.

Doctors on demand: why digital healthcare is great news for expats
Photo: Getty Images

Even once you’re face-to-face with a doctor, you may still be worried about a potential language barrier or your lack of local knowledge. It’s hardly what you want when making a medical appointment becomes one more source of stress.

Now, however, digitalisation is rapidly changing healthcare – and offering international residents the chance to speak to a doctor without leaving home. In partnership with AXA – Global Healthcare, The Local looks into this and some of the other ways in which digitalisation is reshaping healthcare. 

Five levels of cover to suit your needs – find out about AXA – Global Healthcare

How digital tech promotes healthcare at home

Many of us have already embraced technology when it comes to looking after our health and fitness. Wearable devices that track your steps, heart rate or sleep are no longer an oddity – you may check one before going to bed or as soon as you wake up.

The number of health apps you can choose to put on your smartphone is mind-boggling – at least 318,000 as of 2019. The rise of digital consultations with doctors and other health professionals is the latest example of technology bringing healthcare into the home.

According to a report by Deloitte, most healthcare will be delivered to patients at home or through “virtual, outpatient, and other settings” in 20 years from now.

It suggests this will come as healthcare focuses increasingly on helping individuals to stay healthy through tips on wellness and preventing illness. The long-term hope is that technological innovation will help make healthcare more efficient for everyone – patients, doctors, nurses and taxpayers.

Just what the virtual doctor ordered … 

In the digital era, life seems busier than ever for many of us. Luckily, a growing number of digital solutions also enable us to take care of crucial things remotely – and nothing is more crucial than healthcare.

It’s not surprising that people are attracted to the idea of on-demand access to highly qualified doctors – all without having to travel to a clinic or health centre and sit in a waiting room. 

Add in the option of speaking to a doctor in English (or perhaps even another preferred language) and availability around-the-clock, and it’s easy to see why apps and services offering doctor’s appointments are growing fast.

Speak to a doctor in a language of your choice 24/7 with the Virtual Doctor service from AXA 

You can get a diagnosis for you or your family member, advice on the next steps or even have a referral to a specialist arranged.

Photo: Getty Images

The global market for online doctor consultations is worth $3.9 billion in 2020 – but will quadruple to $16 billion in just six years, according to Global Market Estimates. 

These services include the Virtual Doctor service from AXA, which saw up to a 264 percent rise in registrations in a recent eight-month period*.

The app offers access to internationally qualified doctors over the phone 24/7 or via video consultation (between 8am and midnight UK time) for all individual and SME customers.

As well as offering diagnosis and referrals, doctors on the Virtual Doctor service can also provide e-prescriptions in many locations, when medically necessary and where regulations allow.

Moving faster into the future

While coronavirus has played a part in driving demand for online appointments this year, it’s clear that the change has longer term implications. The challenges of the pandemic may simply move us even faster towards more digital consultations in a way that was destined to happen before long anyway.

Digital technology is also changing medical treatment in a variety of other ways that could have significant benefits for patients. For instance, big data has the potential to alert health professionals to potential medication errors through software that can analyse a patient’s history. Another possible usage is in predicting hospital admission rates to help managers anticipate their required staffing levels.

What about virtual reality (VR)? This technology is already offering much more than just a video gamer’s idea of paradise. In healthcare, VR is already being used in innovative approaches to treating everything from pain to post-traumatic stress disorder.

* According to Advance Medial, the virtual doctor service provider, based on registrations from AXA – Global Healthcare members, with policies administered by AXA Global Healthcare (UK) Ltd between Dec 2019 and July 2020. 

Moving abroad or looking to boost your local healthcare coverage? Find out more about AXA – Global Healthcare’s international health insurance options

This article was produced by The Local Creative Studio and presented by AXA.

AXA Global Healthcare (EU) Limited. Registered in Ireland number 630468. Registered Office: Wolfe Tone House, Wolfe Tone Street, Dublin 1. AXA Global Healthcare (EU) Limited is regulated by the Central Bank of Ireland.

AXA Global Healthcare (UK) Limited. Registered in England (No. 03039521). Registered Office: 20 Gracechurch Street, London, EC3V 0BG, United Kingdom. AXA Global Healthcare (UK) Limited is authorised and regulated in the UK by the Financial Conduct Authority.

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HEALTH INSURANCE

The essential insurance many foreigners in Sweden forget to sign up for

When moving to Sweden, a lot of the paperwork is mercifully simpler than in many places – at least once you arrive. But one crucial insurance can be easily missed, and can end up costing a lot if you fail to apply.

The essential insurance many foreigners in Sweden forget to sign up for
Making sure you sign up for this important insurance could save you thousands of kronor. Photo: Emelie Asplund/imagebank.sweden.se

The Swedish Social Insurance Agency (Försäkringskassan) is responsible for providing a range of benefits and allowances, including sick and disability pay, child allowance, and many other forms of social security. 

In order to receive these benefits, you need to be insured in Sweden. You don’t pay anything for this insurance, but you do need to actively apply to be completely covered.

Some benefits are linked to your employment. Work-based benefits like sick pay, parental benefit, and injury compensation are available to people who work in Sweden – employees, self-employed people, and contractors are all insured for these.

Other benefits are available to everyone legally resident in Sweden, regardless of whether you’re working, but only if you sign up with Försäkringskassan.

This includes child allowance, parental benefit at the basic level, income support for the elderly, and several other benefits. 


You need to register with Försäkringskassan to be eligible for dental care subsidies in Sweden. Photo: Simon Paulin/SvD/TT

One important one is dental care.

You will be eligible to receive medical care in Sweden on the same terms as Swedish citizens as soon as you are registered with the Tax Agency and have a personal identity number, personnummer (non-EU citizens should arrange insurance to cover them before this point).

But for dental care, you need to register with Försäkringskassan in order to be eligible for Sweden’s dental subsidies.

Dental care is free of charge for people under the age of 23. After this age you are required to pay, but are entitled to an annual subsidy depending on your age, as well as high cost protection which means you never pay above a certain amount for dental care in a given year.

So how do you apply?

If you move to Sweden together with a child (aged under 16), the agency should contact you once you have registered with the Swedish Tax Agency (Skatteverket) and received your personal identity number. 

But for people moving here without children, you need to actively register with the agency – simply having your personnummer is not enough. It is important to do this as soon as possible after the move. Even if none of the benefits are relevant at the time when you move, it’s a key step just in case something unexpected happens.

One reason for that is that registration is not automatic. In fact, the process can take several months, and you are not insured during the waiting time. 


Registration is not automatic, and can take several months. Photo: Gorm Kallestad/NTB Scanpix/TT

Once you have got either a residence permit or have registered with the Tax Agency, you can register either online at forsakringskassan.se, if you have Swedish BankID, or by sending off a form, which you can find in English here. You will need to provide copies of your permit or, if moving from an EU/EEA country or Switzerland, proof that you are no longer covered by social insurance in that country. 

If you are not able to be added to the population register, for example if you cannot prove that your stay will be over a year, you should still apply either online or via the same form, and the agency will check if there are any forms of compensation you may still be eligible for.

When you register with Försäkringskassan, you can also apply for a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) at the same time. The benefit of this is that when you travel within the EU, you will be eligible for the same healthcare at the same prices as local residents. 

If you become eligible for a benefit, for example if you need long-term sickness compensation or are expecting a child, you will need to let the agency know by either filling out a form or using the My Pages section of the website to apply for that compensation.

The exception is the dental subsidy, which you do not need to apply for because everyone is eligible. All you need to do is tell your dentist that you are registered with Försäkringskassan and would like to use your subsidy towards your payment.

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