Your initial contact for accessing healthcare in Germany will usually be a General Practitioner (GP) or doctor (Allgemeinarzt or Hausarzt), who can assess your condition, provide treatment or refer you on to a specialist, if necessary.
You do not necessarily need to register with a specific doctor in Germany, as most practices will see any patient. It would be wise, however, to do your research in advance, to make it easier to seek help if you become ill.
How to find a doctor (Hausarzt)
You can find a local doctor by visiting the Jameda website and entering “Hausarzt” and your postcode. If you are covered by statutory health insurance, you can also search through the Kassenärztliche Bundesvereinigung directory. Alternatively, your local mission or embassy or even your health insurance provider will usually be able to provide you with a list of recommended doctors.
Note that some doctors will only treat private patients. If you do not have private health insurance, make sure that your chosen doctor treats “Alle kassen” (any type of German health insurance) or describes themselves as a “Kassenarzt”.
Making appointments with a doctor
You can make an appointment with your doctor on the phone or in person. The assistant cannot always be expected to speak English, but in Germany it is not common for them to ask you details about your condition over the phone. You therefore only need to prepare a few simple phrases in German. You may have to wait several days or even weeks for routine appointments.
If you urgently need an appointment, some surgeries offer walk-in appointments during opening hours (Sprechzeiten). You can simply turn up and wait to be seen, although this may take several hours. If you have an appointment, walk-in patients may be seen before you if their need is deemed more urgent, so expect to wait a while even if you arrive on time. If your doctor gives you a prescription, you can redeem this at the nearest pharmacy.
It is common for doctors to work both at a practice and in a hospital, so their office hours may be irregular. Most practices are closed on Wednesday afternoons, weekends and public holidays. If in doubt, it is best to check your practice’s opening times in advance.
Remember to bring your health insurance card (Gesundheitskarte) to the appointment so that the doctor can bill your insurance company. If you have private health insurance, you may need to pay up front and then be reimbursed by your provider.
Seeing a specialist in Germany (Facharzt)
Usually, you will need a referral from a GP before you can see a specialist (Facharzt). Some private health insurance policies, however, allow you to make appointments directly with a specialist. Refer to your health insurance policy or speak with your provider if you are unsure.
If you are in need of medical assistance out-of-hours and your regular doctor is unavailable, they will usually have an answering machine message providing details of an emergency contact. Alternatively, you can call an emergency doctor. See our Medical emergencies page for more details.