Individual risk assessment ‘more important than ever’ for travellers

Morgan Liotta

2/12/2022 5:09:18 PM

Emerging diseases and new travel models mean educating patients on the complexity of travel medicine – updated RACGP online modules can help.

Man at airport wearing face mask.
The pandemic has ‘radically changed’ the context of international travel.

With the rebound of travel since COVID-19 restrictions have eased, GPs are again seeing more patients seeking travel medicine advice.
But according to Bond University Professor Nick Zwar, GP and Chair of RACGP Specific Interests Travel Medicine, while international travel is resuming, the pandemic has ‘radically changed’ the context in terms of regulation, risks and models of travel.
In a recent Australian Journal of General Practice (AJGP) article, Professor Zwar discussed the ‘changed context and wide-ranging implications’ of the COVID‑19 pandemic for travel health advice – a significant component of Australian general practice, with most people visiting their GP to access this information.
‘With travel rapidly returning to pre-pandemic levels there is a need for GPs to be ready to provide accurate and up-to-date advice,’ Professor Zwar told newsGP.
To further support GPs in this role, the RACGP has launched new travel medicine education courses through gplearning.
Professor Zwar said the online courses are designed to assist GPs in updating their knowledge and skills in the new era of travel.
‘The travel medicine education modules cover the essentials of this field, including risk assessment, providing advice and managing illness both during and after travel,’ he said.
‘As highlighted by the COVID-19 pandemic, the emergence of mpox and other challenges such as Japanese encephalitis, travel medicine is a dynamic field and there is a need to know where to look for information. Reliable sources are covered in the modules.’
The two course now available on gplearning are detailed below.
Travel medicine
This course introduces the essentials of travel medicine and provides a foundation for further understanding of this field. It comprises three modules and a course evaluation:

  • Module one: Travel medicine consultation essentials
  • Module two: Assessing and managing health risks for travellers
  • Module three: Managing illness during and after travel
  • Course evaluation: Travel medicine (optional)
Travel Health MCQs
This course offers multiple choice questions (MCQs) and provides an opportunity to review and build on understanding of the field. It comprises a module and course evaluation:
  • Module: Travel health two MCQs
  • Course evaluation: Travel health two MCQs (optional)
Professor Zwar wrote in AJGP that given many people go to their GP for travel health advice, there is ‘a responsibility for general practice to have the knowledge, skills and systems in place to provide good-quality health advice and to consider and define their scope of practice’.
A defining feature of travel medicine is risk assessment, he says, which involves an evaluation of the patient’s health status and medical history, as well as destination-specific risks such as the epidemiology of infectious diseases in the travel destinations.
COVID-19 testing and vaccination requirements – as well as other vaccinations relevant for each country – and accompanying documentation is also part of the standard care.
Conducting a risk assessment and providing quality and comprehensive advice can take longer than a standard primary care consultation, Professor Zwar highlights, who recommends scheduling a longer consultation of at least 20 minutes.
‘GPs need to educate travellers on the increased complexity of international travel,’ he wrote.
‘Individual risk assessment is more important than ever with re-emerging and emerging diseases and changing models of travel.’
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