If you need to see a German doctor, this guide explains conditions for seeing a doctor in Germany and how to find a doctor in Germany.
If you’re an expat living in Germany, the cost of visiting a German doctor or specialist will typically be partly covered under the German healthcare system, provided you have made the necessary registrations. The care of doctors in Germany (German for doctor: Hausarzt or Allgemeinarzt) is generally regarded as a good standard, although waiting times at busy clinics can be several days.
There are numerous types of German doctors, from GPs/family doctors to specialists such as dermatologists and cardiologists. According to World Health Organisation (WHO), there is an average of 3.58 doctors per 1,000 inhabitants in Germany, with doctors in either in private clinics or hospitals.
This guide explains everything you need to know before visiting a doctor in Germany, including the requirements for seeing a German doctor or specialist, how to find a doctor in Germany, GP costs, and which German doctors to contact in emergency situations.
This guide includes:
- Requirements for seeing German doctors
- How to see a German specialist doctor
- How to find a doctor in Germany
- Process for visiting a German doctor
- Costs of visiting the doctor in Germany
- Finding German doctors in emergency situations
- More information
Germany’s healthcare system is dual public-private, with some German doctors treating patients under the state-run service and others operating privately.
Under German healthcare legislation there is no obligation to register with a specific German doctor, but if you are living long-term or working in Germany you will first need to register for healthcare at your local town hall, get a social insurance number and register with a health insurance fund to get your health card – in return, your medical costs will be partly covered. Read more in our complete guide to healthcare in Germany.
If you are not eligible for state-funded German health insurance or are in Germany temporarily, you may be required to take out private health insurance. Citizens from the European Union (EU), European Economic Area (EEA) or Switzerland who are in Germany for a temporary visit can use their European Health Insurance Card (EHIC). Find out what applies to your situation in our guide to health insurance in Germany.
Some German doctors require you to make a prior appointment, while others have an ‘open door’ walk-in policy but there may be a long wait. Most GP surgeries are open between 8am–6pm, Monday to Friday, with a two-hour lunch break between 1–3pm. Many surgeries are shut on Wednesday afternoons and only a few open on Saturdays. In almost all cases, you will be ask to present your Gesundheitskarte (German health insurance card) or other proof of health coverage, plus official ID.
If you are unable to attend work because of an illness, you will typically need to get a German doctor’s certificate after one to three days (depending on your place of employment). Just ask your doctor in Germany for a Krankheitsbescheinigung (illness confirmation), which you can give to your employer.
If you need vaccinations to travel, you can also consult your German doctor. Some vaccinations will be covered by your German health insurance, although you should confirm which ones first.
If you need to see a German specialist doctor (eg. cardiologist, psychiatrist, etc.), in most cases you will be referred by your GP. However, in Germany it is also acceptable to make an appointment directly with a specialist without consulting your doctor.
As with GPs, German specialists operate in both private and state-run sectors, and you will need either state-funded or private health insurance to cover treatment. Depending on the specialist treatment required, you may have to wait several days or even weeks for an appointment under the public system.
Residents are free to find a doctor in Germany of their choice. Some German doctors only treat private patients, so you will need to check beforehand if you only have state insurance to avoid having to pay. German doctors offering services under the state system usually have a sign saying Kassenarzt or Alle Kassen in their clinic, indicating they are state registered.
You can find a German doctor through personal recommendation, your embassy or through online directories, such as this one which allows you to search by region, speciality field or name. A regional search of all registered German doctors and specialists is also available on the Federal Chamber of Physicians website here. You can also check the Gelbe Seiten, which is the German Yellow pages, for a list of German doctors.
If you prefer to go with a recommended German doctor rather than choosing one blind, most embassies have lists of recommended German doctors, usually speaking your native tongue. You can also use German websites such as DocInsider which gives patient ratings on doctors in Germany.
Many doctors and specialists in Germany, along with some administrative staff, speak at least a basic level of English; just do an online search for ‘Allgemeinarzt Englisch‘ in your city. You can find English-speaking doctors in Germany by checking with one of the UK embassies here or US embassies and consulates here. There are also specialised services that can help you find English-speaking doctors abroad. Otherwise, learning the basic medical terms in German and German body parts can greatly aid your diagnosis.
If you wish to make a doctor’s appointment in Germany, you can do so by telephone or in person with the doctor’s assistant (Arzthelfer). You won’t normally be asked the reason for your visit. The Arzthelfer may not speak English, so if your German is not particularly good you may want to have a couple of basic phrases handy to explain which date and time you want.
Popular German doctors in urban areas, along with most specialists, often have long waiting periods so unless your condition is urgent you may have to wait several days for an appointment. If you cannot wait for an appointment, you can visit a surgery with an ‘open door’ policy.
Once at your German doctor’s clinic, you will need to present your health insurance card to the Arzthelfer. If you are seeing a doctor in Germany for the first time, you may have to fill out a questionnaire detailing your medical history. In busy surgeries, you may have to wait beyond your appointment time to be seen.
Following the appointment, the Arzthelfer will make the necessary arrangements (issue any prescriptions or sick leave certificates, make specialist referrals or follow-up appointments). If your health insurance doesn’t cover all costs or if you have private health insurance, you will receive a bill in the post within a few days.
You can pick up prescriptions from the pharmacy (Apotheken-Notdienst). At least one pharmacy in your area will stay open late for out-of-hours prescription pick ups. You can find your local late night pharmacy here; just enter your postcode in Apotheke finden.
If you are covered by state health insurance, bills from German doctors and specialists are sent straight to the insurance company, although you will be expected to cover a small co-payment fee. If you have private health insurance, you will have to pay upfront and get reimbursed by your insurance company.
Costs for a general check up are usually around EUR 25–30. If you are only covered by state insurance, remember to check that your doctor offers state-funded provision, otherwise the fees will be much higher.
Since 2004, those with state health insurance have to pay EUR 10 per quarter to see a doctor in Germany, regardless of how often they visit. If you are referred to another doctor or specialist, your referral letter will be evidence that you don’t need to pay the co-payment again. If you go without this letter, however, you may be charged.
Patients also have to contribute towards prescriptions and some additional costs including:
- EUR 10 towards prescriptions and treatments plus 10 percent of costs (children under 18 don’t pay)
- 10 percent towards medicines and bandages
- full costs of painkillers and minor drugs such as flu remedies
- 10 percent of ambulance and transport costs (unless an emergency situation).
Bills are normally sent to your home address and paid via bank account. You will need to send these onto your health insurer to claim reimbursement for visits to doctors in Germany.
Private insurance for medical treatment in Germany
Another option for expats in Germany is private insurance. This is usually more expensive but the coverage is more extensive. There are international health insurance providers which offer coverage schemes for expats, including:
If you need medical help outside of doctors’ opening hours, you can do any of the following:
- Call your own doctor. If they are not available, there is likely to be an emergency out-of-hours number to contact on the answering machine.
- Call 19242 for an emergency doctor.
- Call 116117 for a non-emergency doctor on call.
- Call 112 for an ambulance.
- Call 110 for the police.
- Visit your local A&E or emergency room (Notaufnahme).
- Look in the Arztlicher Notdienst section of your local newspaper, which lists doctors on stand-by for emergency duty along with emergency numbers and out-of-hours services.
Find a full list of emergency numbers in Germany for more information.