In Germany you can decide for yourself which doctor, dentist or psychotherapist you want to visit. For their part, doctors are obligated to treat anyone who is insured.
Good to know
Doctors, psychotherapists and people working in doctors’ practices must respect “doctor-patient confidentiality” In other words, they are not allowed to share information about you with anyone else – not even your family members or partner – without your permission.
Sometimes this also applies to information about the health of your children. For example, your 16-year-old daughter’s gynaecologist cannot give you information about her examination results without your daughter’s permission.
Step 1: Find and chose the nearest family doctor (Hausarzt) or paediatrician (Kinderarzt). In general you are free to choose which doctor to see. Choose your family doctor carefully and have an in-depth talk with your doctor the first time you meet so that you can get to know each other. Your doctor should also be able to clearly explain the examinations you need and what your treatment options are.
Step 2: Schedule an appointment. Most practices set aside a few hours every day for people who come with acute problems (“Notfallsprechstunde”). You can usually come in without an appointment during those hours. But it is still a good idea to give them a quick call beforehand to let them know you are coming.
Step 3: When you go to a doctor’s practice for the first time, you should take along your certificate of vaccinations (Impfpass) and – where available – the results of previous diagnostic tests. You should also be prepared to inform your doctor exactly about what medication you take. Every time you need to see your doctor, you have to bring your valid health insurance card (Krankenversicherungskarte) with an electronic chip, in order to receive medical treatment. Should you forget it, you will be asked to bring it into the practice within ten days.
Step 4: If necessary, your family doctor may refer you to a specialist practice (Facharztpraxis) where the doctors are specialized in another field, such as gynecology, mental illness, or conditions affecting your ears, nose and throat. In that case, your family doctor will give you a letter of referral (Überweisungsschein) which you will have to show at the specialist doctor’s practice.
Step 5: In some cases it can be a good idea to get a second opinion (see what a different doctor says), for instance if your diagnosis is not clear or you are faced with a difficult decision about treatment options. You are free to choose another doctor for a second appointment to compare the opinions and take the best decision.
Step 6: In addition to doctors and dentists, there are a number of other health care professionals, including physiotherapists, speech therapists, nurses and midwives. You will usually need a doctor’s prescription for physiotherapy, speech therapy or home care.
The statutory insurers pay fixed amounts for some services such as dental prosthetics. Any additional costs must be paid out-of-pocket and depend on the type of dental treatment. Adults also usually need to make a co-payment for outpatient physiotherapy or speech therapy.
At the practice of your chosen family doctor.
In an emergency such as an accident or a life-threatening event like a heart attack, emergency services can be reached by dialling 112.