Whether you need to visit a German hospital for a routine check-up, emergency help, or a specialized visit, here is everything you need to know.
Fortunately for expats moving to Germany, the country boasts one of the best healthcare systems in the world, as well as some of its best hospitals. There are currently just under 2,000 German hospitals, which fall into three categories: public, private, and voluntary/non-profit. Needless to say, if you find yourself in need of medical care in Germany, you certainly have options.
That said, if you aren’t familiar with the German hospital system, you might be surprised by the number of cultural differences they have compared to your home country. So, to help you get better acquainted, this article includes the following information:
- Hospitals in Germany
- How to access hospital treatment in Germany
- Emergency treatment in Germany
- Hospital stays in Germany: what to expect
- Hospital costs in Germany
- Being discharged from hospitals in Germany
- Visiting someone in hospital in Germany
- The best hospitals in Germany
- List of hospitals in Germany
- Useful resources
Cigna Global provides comprehensive health insurance to over 86 million customers in more than 200 countries, including Germany. They have broad access to trusted hospitals, clinics, and doctors and provide expats with help tailoring a plan to suit your individual healthcare needs.
COVID-19 in Germany
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.
Hospitals in Germany
Germany has a mixed hospital system with three types of hospitals: public hospitals (Öffentliche Krankenhäuser), private hospitals (Privatkrankenhäuser), and non-profit hospitals (Frei gemeinnützige Krankenhäuser). Federal and local governments fund both public and university hospitals. Public hospitals offer general care and are usually better equipped to handle emergencies.
That said, they may have longer wait times. Private hospitals, on the other hand, are usually smaller in size and more specialized, with shorter wait times. Churches, religious groups, and charitable organizations such as the German Red Cross, meanwhile, operate non-profit hospitals.
There is a ratio of 4.6 physicians per 1,000 residents within the German hospital system. When compared to other countries, hospital stays in Germany are usually a little longer. For example, if you are having a baby, you could stay up to five days, unlike in the US, where you typically stay for two or three days.
How to access hospital treatment in Germany
According to German law, everyone in Germany, including expats, must have health insurance while staying in the country. For residents, there are two kinds of health insurance – statutory (or public) insurance and private insurance.
Generally speaking, most hospitals in Germany accept all patients, whether they have public or private health insurance. However, it’s important to keep in mind that a few smaller, private hospitals may only accept those with private health insurance. Of course, if you don’t have health insurance, you will have to pay out of pocket.
If you don’t have an emergency but need specialized care, a doctor will need to give you a referral to a hospital. You will then need to bring your health insurance card, referral slip, and passport (or another form of identification) to the specified hospital. To make an appointment, you can either call the hospital or visit its website.
Emergency treatment in Germany
Responding quickly to medical emergencies can help save a life. For life-threatening emergencies in Germany, you should dial 112, for free, from any cell phone, landline, or payphone.
However, if a situation is not life-threatening, but you still need medical attention, you can go to the emergency room at your nearest hospital. You can also dial 116 117 to speak with a doctor-on-call.
Notably, anyone can access emergency treatment in Germany, but if you don’t have insurance, you will need to pay for the hospital costs yourself.
Hospital stays in Germany: what to expect
While the quality of care you will receive at a German hospital will be top-notch, it might not be what you are used to. Firstly, many cultural differences exist between the German hospital system and the rest of Europe. For instance, the level of comfort and privacy (or lack thereof) provided to patients is often a surprise to foreigners.
And while the hospital will provide you with three very basic meals a day, surprisingly enough, they won’t provide you with other essential items such as a nightgown, towels, or toiletries. Therefore, be prepared to bring these with you.
Additionally, there may be less privacy than what you are used to, with typical patient rooms having between two and four same-sex patients. Furthermore, the beds in these rooms don’t typically have curtains around the beds. It is also quite common for doctors to stay in the room while you undress, which can be a bit shocking for expats. In fact, a doctor may even ask you to walk across the hall fully undressed (this is where the gown you brought might come in handy).
That said, if you have private insurance or are willing to pay extra, you may request a private room; although this will depend on bed availability. Likewise, if you would like to watch television or surf the web, you will need to pay extra. And finally, don’t be surprised when the doctor gives you your diagnosis with no sympathy at all, as they can be quite blunt with their words!
Hospital costs in Germany
If you have private insurance, the insurance company will cover most of your hospital bill. However, you will most likely have to pay upfront and be reimbursed later. If not, you may receive bills in the mail for your hospital visit that must be sent to your insurance company by mail.
Notably, if you request any extras such as internet or television, they will most likely be out-of-pocket expenses; although some private insurance plans do cover them. To be sure, though, you should check the details of your plan beforehand.
Health insurance for hospital costs
If you have statutory health insurance, it will cover your hospital stay, but you will be expected to pay €10 per day at the hospital, for a maximum of 28 days per year. However, children under the age of 18 are exempt from this fee.
Fortunately, there are a number of expat-friendly international health insurance firms that operate in Germany, including:
You can also visit our health insurance quotes page to find more information. Alternatively, you can visit GKV which provides a list of statutory health insurance companies, or PKV which has a list of private health insurance companies.
Being discharged from hospitals in Germany
Generally speaking, you can self-discharge if you would like to leave the hospital early. However, there are two exceptions to this: patients who have a contagious disease, and newly operated patients. Notably, if you decide to self-discharge, you will have to sign a form to state that you accept liability if anything happens to you. However, in most cases, your doctor will discharge you, and discuss it with you a few days before you leave.
Discharge typically occurs in the mornings or around lunchtime. When it is time to be discharged from the hospital, you will be given a discharge letter. This will contain your personal information, medical findings, contact information for your doctor, and information for follow-up treatments or medications. Additionally, you will receive a more detailed letter in the mail a few weeks after your hospital visit. After you leave the hospital, your primary doctor will conduct follow-up visits and prescribe medicine, according to the treatment plan.
It is useful to know that in Germany, it is customary to leave a small gift for the nurses to show your appreciation when leaving the hospital. This can be either a basket of food, flowers, or money.
Visiting someone in hospital in Germany
Although hospital visiting hours in Germany vary, they are typically between the hours of 14:00 and 20:00. If the patient in care is a child, one parent will be allowed to sleep with them overnight. While small children are not always welcome when it comes to visiting a patient, you can get around this if the child is quiet and doesn’t disturb the other patients.
It is useful to know that although flowers are welcome, most hospitals don’t allow them in a pot with soil. This is because the soil carries germs, which can be dangerous for a sick patient. Therefore, it is a good idea to check the specific hospital’s website for its rules about visitors, since each hospital has its own rules.
The best hospitals in Germany
- Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin – Located in Berlin, this is the largest public hospital in Germany and ranks number one with a score of 93.1%
- Universitätsklinikum Heidelberg – Located in Heidelberg, this public university hospital ranks number two with a score of 90.7% and has highly cited researchers
- Universitätsklinikum Hamburg-Eppendorf – Located in Hamburg, this public hospital has 1,436 hospital beds and ranks number three with a score of 90%
- Klinikum der Universität München – Located in Munich, this is one of the largest university public hospitals in Germany and ranks number three with a score of 87.4%
List of hospitals in Germany
- St. Hedwig-Krankenhaus Berlin
- Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin
- Vivantes Klinikum Am Urban
- Augenklinik im Ring-Center
- Franziskus Krankenhaus Berlin
- Diakonissenkrankenhaus Flensburg
- Ev.-luth. Diakonissenanstalt Psychiatrische Tagesklinik für Ältere
- Ev.-luth. Diakonissenanstalt Tagesklinik für Psychosomatik
- Ev.-luth. Diakonissenanstalt Kinder- und Jugendpsychiatrie
- Malteser Krankenhaus St. Franziskus-Hospital
- Park-Klinik GmbH
- Lubinus Clinicum
- Sankt Elisabeth Krankenhaus Kiel
- Klinik Flechsig GmbH
- Tagesklinik Klaus Groth Platz
- Kliniken Dr. Erler gGmbH
- Internistische Klinik Dr. Steger AG
- St. Theresien-Krankenhaus Nürnberg gGmbH
- Sana-Klinik Nürnberg GmbH
You can search for hospitals by region in the German Hospital Directory.
- German Federal Ministry of Health – the main government website which provides up-to-date information about healthcare in Germany
- German Hospital Directory – allows you to search for hospitals and specialist departments near you
- DGKJ – provides a list of children’s hospitals and clinics throughout Germany
- Statistisches Bundesamt (Destatis) – provides the latest statistics, data, and news on hospitals in Germany