Find out everything you need to know about seeing a doctor in Switzerland, including the registration process, costs, health insurance, and more.
Fortunately for expats, Switzerland has one of the best healthcare systems in the world, which boasts a network of highly-skilled doctors, efficient staff, and quality facilities. This makes it a very desirable place to live for foreigners. Although going to the doctor is probably not the first thing that you want to do upon arrival, it’s good to know how doctors in Switzerland operate. It is also helpful to familiarize yourself with topics such as hospitals, vaccinations, and having a baby in the country. Unfortunately, services are not free, however, you can apply for health insurance which will cover some of these fees.
To help you understand how to find and see a doctor in Switzerland, this helpful guide includes the following information:
- Doctors in Switzerland
- Who can access doctors in Switzerland?
- Finding a doctor in Switzerland
- Registering with a doctor in Switzerland
- Making an appointment with doctors in Switzerland
- Medical specialists in Switzerland
- The cost of doctors in Switzerland
- Health insurance in Switzerland
- Private doctors in Switzerland
- Doctor prescriptions in Switzerland
- Medical tests in Switzerland
- Emergency doctors in Switzerland
- Making a complaint about doctors in Switzerland
- Useful Swiss medical phrases
- Useful resources
COVID-19 in Switzerland
The COVID-19 pandemic has been a difficult time for everyone. Many expats find themselves separated from family and loved ones in their home countries. As a foreigner, it is also sometimes difficult to find critical information regarding coronavirus infection rates, local measures, and restrictions, and now, thankfully, vaccinations. Find out more with our article on coronavirus in Switzerland.
For general coronavirus health information in Switzerland, including vaccination schedules and the latest government restrictions, visit the Swiss government’s official COVID-19 website.
Doctors in Switzerland
The healthcare system in Switzerland is universal and of a high standard. However, unlike in some other European countries, the system is not tax-based or financed by employers. Instead, it is paid through Swiss health insurance schemes. Therefore, in order to access it, everyone in the country must have basic health and accident insurance.
There are nearly 21,000 medical practitioners in Switzerland, which range from dentists to surgeons. They usually work in private individual or group practices and operate at GP surgeries, hospitals, and healthcare centers. They typically work from 07:00 to 17:00. You can usually choose your doctor and they will attend to you and your family.
Who can access doctors in Switzerland?
If you are living and working in Switzerland, and have health insurance, then you can access doctors in the country. However, the costs of seeing them and the specialist treatments that you might need may vary between providers and across the regional cantons. Notably, this applies to expats and non-residents.
Finding a doctor in Switzerland
Finding a doctor in Switzerland depends on the type of insurance that you have. In general, Swiss residents can choose their doctor. However, if you are using a cheaper health insurance plan, then you might be limited when it comes to your options. Fortunately, it is relatively easy to find a doctor in Switzerland and there are several helpful platforms that allow you to search for one in your area.
These include the Swiss Medical Association search engine, doktor.ch site, and Swiss Yellow Pages (search for doktor/arzt/medicin/medico). In terms of requirements, all doctors in Switzerland must possess at least a C1 level of knowledge in at least one of the languages.
Finding English-speaking doctors in Switzerland
Although most Swiss doctors do speak a good level of English, you may want to clarify this by sourcing a doctor yourself. To locate doctors in Switzerland who speak English, you can try contacting your nearest consulate or embassy. You can also search for one in our directory.
Registering with a doctor in Switzerland
In order to see a doctor in Switzerland, you must first register with the Swiss healthcare system. Once you have found one, you can book an appointment with them in advance. Furthermore, you may want to meet your doctor with your family members so that you can build a quick relationship. When you visit the doctor’s office, don’t forget to bring your Swiss health insurance card with you, along with a photo ID, in case they ask to see it.
Making an appointment with doctors in Switzerland
It is very easy to make an appointment with a doctor in Switzerland. You can book one in advance by either calling their office or doing so online. It is advisable to make the appointment in advance to avoid disappointment.
Although waiting times for appointments with general doctors in Switzerland are short, the waiting lists for specialists can be much longer and you may have to wait a few weeks before you can see one.
Furthermore, be aware that some doctors in Switzerland charge a penalty fee if you have to cancel your appointment without giving at least 24 hours’ notice. Therefore, you might want to check with your own.
What to expect when visiting a doctor in Switzerland
Once you have booked your appointment and you’re ready to go, don’t forget to bring your health insurance card and photo ID with you in case they ask to see it. In most cases, there will be a reception desk at the clinic where you can check in. Following the appointment, your doctor might prescribe you treatment or refer you to a specialist. Some doctors sell medication directly to patients. If this is not the case, however, you can pick up your prescription from a Swiss pharmacy nearby.
If you are unable to attend an appointment with your doctor in person, then you can use an online doctor service and ask a GP to visit you at home. Some examples of these include Hirslanden, OnlineDoctor, and medgate.
Medical specialists in Switzerland
Fortunately for expats, Switzerland offers an abundance of healthcare specialists in nearly every field, including neurologists, pathologists, hematologists, and urologists. Furthermore, they are accessible throughout the country. These specialists typically work in private practices, clinics, and hospitals.
However, due to high demand, the waiting lists to see these specialists can be quite long. If you do need to see one, make sure to check if you require a prior referral from your doctor as this could affect your insurance policy.
The cost of doctors in Switzerland
Although Swiss healthcare is subsidized through health insurance, it isn’t completely free. Therefore, all residents have to pay an excess of between CHF 300 to CHF 2,500 per year towards their healthcare. This can vary depending on their insurance premiums. Interestingly, the excess is paid first, so someone with an excess of CHF 300 will not receive any reimbursements until the first CHF 300 per year is paid.
On average, a 15-minute consultation with a Swiss doctor costs CHF 130. However, longer consultation costs vary and can start from CHF 300 for on-site treatment. While basic health insurance covers medical and nursing care and outpatient follow-up, you will need to pay CHF 15 per day towards these costs.
Health insurance in Switzerland
Importantly, health insurance in Switzerland is compulsory for everyone and regulated by the Swiss Federal Law. It is not free or provided by the state and, therefore, both residents and non-residents will need to arrange at least basic health insurance coverage. This will cover around 80 to 90% of their healthcare costs.
Luckily, there are a number of health insurance providers in Switzerland that offer packages tailored to meet the needs of expats. Some of these include:
Private doctors in Switzerland
Swiss healthcare is renowned for being among the most reliable in the world. Therefore, it is not always necessary to invest in private doctors when you live in the country. However, this could be useful if you require more specialized care or treatments. If this is the case, then you may want to take out optional supplementary health insurance at an additional cost. You can choose the level of coverage that you need. Essentially, the greater the level of coverage, the higher the premium.
The benefits vary but may include orthodontic treatment, spectacles/contact lenses, a choice of the doctor when you need treatment in hospital, and private or semi-private hospital ward stays. Conveniently, this supplementary health insurance cover can be with the same insurance provider or a different one.
If you wish to find a private doctor in Switzerland, you can either contact your consulate or use platforms such as Swiss Medical Association, doktor.ch site, and Swiss Yellow Pages (search for doktor/arzt/medicin/medico) to do so.
Doctor prescriptions in Switzerland
In Switzerland, pharmacies tend not to take prescriptions from foreign doctors, so it’s better to ask your Swiss doctor if you need a prescription. You should first head to your doctor and ask them to write a prescription for you. Then, you can pick it up at the pharmacy. Don’t forget to bring a photo ID and your health insurance card along with you for proof. Notably, prescription medication is covered by Swiss Mandatory Health Insurance. Contributions towards prescription medication costs are between 10 to 20% while non-prescription drugs, such as paracetamol, are charged at full price. You can also buy these directly from the pharmacy.
Medical tests in Switzerland
Naturally, it is important to keep up with health measures by attending regular preventative check-ups in Switzerland. In the long run, this will give you and your family peace of mind. With this in mind, it’s worth getting a full-body check-up annually, as well as blood screenings, cancer screenings, and urine tests. You can get in touch with your doctor directly to arrange these. After the appointment, your doctor will typically call you or ask you to call them in a set time period, to let you know the result.
Emergency doctors in Switzerland
If you need emergency treatment from a doctor in Switzerland, there are a few steps you can take. First, you can call your doctor to check if they have any suggestions based on your condition. Next, you can head to the nearest recommended open clinic to get your treatment (in case your doctor is closed). However, if the situation is more urgent, you can call the Swiss hospital emergency line on 112 or an ambulance on 144. Don’t forget to save these Swiss emergency numbers just in case you need them, too.
You should be aware that emergency care in Switzerland is not free and, unless the situation is life-threatening, you will need health insurance to receive emergency treatment. Fortunately, Swiss health insurance covers 50% of the ambulance costs.
Making a complaint about doctors in Switzerland
If you have an incident with a doctor, you can contact the Gemeinsame Einrichtung KVG in Switzerland to help you find the right authority to make a complaint. It is important to note that there are no charges for lodging a complaint. In case you are unhappy with a particular treatment, you should also contact your treatment provider to discuss your options.
You can also contact the Swiss Patient Federation (DVSP) and the Swiss Patient Organization (SPO/OSP) to seek legal advice and medical expertise for your particular case. After sending your complaint, requests can take several days or weeks to resolve. Depending on the response, you can either accept any agreement or build your case and dispute it further. Luckily, however, most cases are settled out-of-court.
Useful Swiss medical phrases
If you are going to see a doctor in Switzerland, then it is important to know your essential medical phrases, in case of an emergency. With this in mind, here are some of the most common medical phrases in the country’s three national languages – German, French, and Italian:
- die Praxis: doctor’s office
- der Termin: an appointment
- Ich habe Fieber: I have a fever
- das Thermometer: thermometer
- schmerz: pain
- Kopfschmerz means “headache,” Bauchschmerz means “stomachache”, and Ruckenschmerz means “back pain”
- der Schnupfen/die Erkältung: a cold
- die Verschreibung/das Rezept: prescription
- das schleimlösende Mittel: decongestant
- das Schmerzmittel: painkiller
- Besoin une ambulance: I need an ambulance
- J’ai eu un accident: I’ve had an accident
- Ma localité est…: My location is…
- Crise cardiaque: Heart attack
- Très malade: Very ill
- Je suis en train d’accoucher: I’m in labour
- Où est-ce qu’on peut trouver un cabinet médical? Where can I find a doctor’s surgery?
- Au secours: Help!
- Studio medico: doctor’s office
- Non mi sento bene: I don’t feel well
- Ho mal di gola: I have a sore throat
- Mi gira la testa: I feel dizzy
- Ho mal di stomaco: I have a stomach ache
- Questo e’ un emergenza: This is an emergency
- Ho l’influenza: I have the flu
- Ho bisogno di una benda: I need a bandage