If you need to see a doctor in Switzerland, this guide explains the process of finding and registering with a Swiss doctor, costs, and requirements to claim subsidized Swiss doctor fees.
The standard of Swiss healthcare is very high and ranked as the third-best health system in the world. Switzerland boasts a network of highly qualified Swiss doctors and fantastic medical facilities – although it is not free, with services funded through high Swiss health insurance fees and excess payments.
Foreign residents or tourists wanting to visit a doctor in Switzerland will typically need some form of insurance coverage. Costs of doctors and specialist treatment vary between providers and across Swiss regional cantons.
This guide explains the requirements for seeing a doctor or specialist in Switzerland, plus tips on:
- How to find a doctor in Switzerland
- Seeing a specialist in Switzerland
- Appointments with a Swiss doctor
- Costs of doctors in Switzerland
- Swiss doctors in an emergency
- Information on Swiss doctors
Requirements for seeing a doctor in Switzerland
There are nearly 34,000 doctors (doktor/arzt/medicin/medico) and physicians in Switzerland (including nearly 10,000 GPs) which works out at 4.1 Swiss doctors per 1,000 of the population. This is above the EU average of 3.6. Doctors in Switzerland tend to work in private individual or group practices. Many families see the same family doctor in Switzerland, as well as pediatrician for any children.
Doctors in Switzerland are part of primary healthcare overseen by the Federal Office of Public Health. Anyone with the necessary health insurance in Switzerland can register with a Swiss doctor.
Visitors will typically need to private health insurance coverage (required for a Swiss visa) to see a doctor in Switzerland, while long-term foreign residents must sign up to the Swiss healthcare insurance scheme within three months in Switzerland, although some exceptions exist. The insurance will cover most costs but there will still be fees to pay on top of this.
Those from the European Union (EU) or the European Economic Area (EEA) in Switzerland on a stay of less than three months can use their European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) to cover some of the costs. Read more in our guide to getting an EHIC. Once an official resident or employee in Switzerland, however, most EU citizens will need to sign up to the Swiss health insurance scheme. Read more in our guide for EU citizens moving to Switzerland.
Residents in Switzerland are free to choose their own doctor, or change doctor if desired, although some of the cheaper health insurances place restrictions on doctor choice, so check your policy.
Most Swiss doctors operate by appointment only and there is usually a fee to pay if you cancel an appointment with less than 24 hours’ notice. Doctors in Switzerland can provide consultations, treatment, prescriptions, referrals to specialists or hospital treatment, family planning and minor surgical procedures. Most Swiss doctors speak English to a good standard.
See our guide on the Swiss healthcare system for more information on the conditions for accessing healthcare in Switzerland.
How to find a doctor in Switzerland
There are several ways you can search for a doctor in Switzerland or find recommendations for Swiss doctors:
- You can use the Swiss Medical Association search engine, which has a list of doctors in Switzerland including 30,000 doctors and specialists. The website allows you to search by name, region, speciality or language
- You can search by area or speciality on the doktor.ch site.
- You can use the Swiss Yellow Pages (search for (doktor/arzt/medicin/medico).
- You can contact your local embassy, which should be able to provide you with a list of recommended or English-speaking doctors in Switzerland.
- Find online lists of doctors in Zurich here, doctors in Geneva here, doctors in Basel here and doctors in Bern here.
Seeing a specialist doctor in Switzerland
Switzerland has a vast range of specialist Swiss doctors such as neurologists, pathologists, hematologists, and urologists. Specialists in Switzerland work in private practices, clinics, and hospitals. Although waiting times for appointments with general doctors in Switzerland are short, the lists for specialists can be much longer and you may have to wait a few weeks to see one.
Specialist treatment in Switzerland falls under secondary care, however, many insurance packages allow you to see a specialist in Switzerland without a prior referral from your doctor. You will need to check the conditions with your insurer, however, because if this is not permitted you will be charged the full consultancy or treatment rate.
See our guide to hospitals in Switzerland for information on some of the specialist hospitals and clinics available.
Appointments with a Swiss doctor
Visits to doctors in Switzerland are generally by appointment only. However, long waiting lists are not common and you can often get an appointment on the same day without difficulty.
When you see a doctor in Switzerland, you should present your health insurance card (or proof of private health insurance) to the reception when you arrive at your appointment. Following your appointment, your Swiss doctor may refer you for specialist treatment or issue you with a prescription. In some cantons, doctors are permitted to sell medication to directly to patients. If this is not the case, you will need to pick up your prescription from a Swiss pharmacy. You can find a list of out-of-hours pharmacies here.
Doctors in Switzerland normally send the bill for consultation or treatment within a few days of the appointment. Bills usually have to be paid within 30 days. The standard arrangement is for patients to pay the full bill and then claim the reimbursement amount from the insurer, unless the insurer has an agreement with the doctor’s practice or healthcare provider to be billed for their proportion directly. If you need to be reimbursed, remember to get an invoice or receipt from the surgery.
Costs of doctors in Switzerland
Swiss healthcare is subsidized through health insurance premiums but nothing is free, including visits to Swiss doctors. All residents have to pay an excess of between CHF 300–2,500 per year towards their healthcare (depending on their insurance premiums). 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 top of ‘excess’ charges, patients have to pay a minimum of 10% towards consultation and treatment costs. The exact percentages vary between insurance companies but the maximum amount that an individual can be charged is CHF 700 per year (excluding excess payments). This amount is halved for children. Pregnant women in Switzerland and certain groups of retirees are exempt from fees. Contributions towards prescription medication costs are between 10–20% and non-prescription drugs are charged at the full amount.
Swiss health insurance
There are a number of companies providing health insurance in Switzerland. The following companies offer packages tailored to meet the needs of expats:
Swiss doctors in an emergency
If you need emergency treatment from a doctor in Switzerland out-of-hours, you can call your Swiss doctor and should be able to get information on out-of-hours services on the answerphone. Emergency care is also provided in emergency rooms of Swiss hospitals. The general emergency number is 112 and the number for an ambulance is 144.
Emergency care in Switzerland is not free and you will need health insurance to receive emergency treatment, unless life-threatening. Swiss health insurance covers 50 percent of ambulance costs.
Save our complete list of emergency numbers in Switzerland.