- Everyday Life
How to find a doctor in Germany
17 Sep 2021
How to find a doctor in Germany
Though it is not anticipated we sometimes fall sick and need doctors to treat us. Finding and choosing a doctor in Germany can be a tedious process if you do not speak the German language. However, there are helpful ways to find and approach a doctor when you are sick. You may refer to Gelbe Seiten or the Yellow Pages to find speciality doctors. But there are also websites like doctolib and jameda who list doctors and include ratings that might be helpful.
Apart from these websites, the best way might be to ask a friend or a colleague to guide you with her or his experience. Word of mouth is very popular in Germany when it comes to finding a good doctor. Usually universities and big companies in Germany have a list of English speaking doctors for their international students and employees. But you might confront one problem: many doctors don’t take new patients since they are overwhelmed with the patients they already have, so don’t be disappointed and don’t give up if the first doctor you call says ‘sorry we are full’.
It is advisable to have a Hausarzt or primary care physician in Germany who is usually your first point of contact before starting any treatment. Once you have relocated you should immediately look for a primary care physician and not wait until you really need one. As mentioned above it can be difficult to find a doctor in Germany, last but not least also because ‘Germans love to see the doctor’ and there are just not enough doctors to cover the need. Once you have found your Hausarzt you can visit her or him for regular checkups and she or he can also provide prescriptions for your family members. Finding a specialist doctor can be even more difficult. Here we suggest you ask your Hausarzt to recommend someone or refer you to a specialist doctor if you are in need of one.
Check with your Hausarzt or any other doctor if you can bring someone along to your appointment, not only because of the language barrier but also because if you aren’t feeling well you might like to have someone with you to explain your problems to the doctor and to keep a record of his diagnosis and treatment advice.
When making an appointment offline, you can either call or go to the practice in person. The person who would assist you will be a doctor’s assistant or Arzthelfer/in. You need to request a day and time of appointment, but in general you won’t be asked any further questions on why you need to see the doctor.
It is very common for doctors in Germany to run a private practice and at the same time be on the list of hospital staff. Due to this system, consultation hours or Sprechstunden could be limited for certain doctors. The office hours for most doctors in Germany start at 8 am and continue until 1pm and then again from 3 pm to 6 pm on weekdays (except for Wednesdays as most practices are closed on Wednesday afternoons). Despite having appointments, many doctors treat patients on a first come first serve basis, which means you might have to wait a little longer if the waiting room or Wartezimmer is already full. Some general practitioners or Hausärzte have an ‘open door’ policy and accept walk-in patients.
In case of an emergency you can either go the the emergency ward or Ambulanz of a hospital or in case you can’t walk or drive call 112. This is an important number to know since it works 24/7 and you will get assistance immediately. They will either send you an ambulance to bring you to the next hospital or send an emergency doctor to take care of you at your home. This is valid for both people with public and private insurance.
Please don’t forget to bring your health insurance card for any appointment with a doctor, both in a private practice and in a hospital. If you have statutory health insurance, you do not have to pay consultation fees but with private health insurance you will have to. Later, you can get it reimbursed by your insurance provider. Similarly, while buying prescribed medicines from the pharmacy, you can expect your medicines to be partly or fully covered by statutory health insurance (though be careful since some are not covered at all). However, with private health insurance, the reimbursement process repeats itself.
Beware: Some doctors take only patients with private insurance. Always make sure that the doctor you choose is covered by your insurance.
We wish you good health, always. Bleiben Sie gesund!
Written by: Sanchari Banerjee
Photo: by Sammy Williams on Unsplash
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