How Does the German Health Care System Work?
The German health care system consists of doctors, pharmacies, and hospitals. Your first point of contact is the doctor. If you don’t have an acute illness, you’ll have to first make an appointment to see the doctor in most cases. For critical or very specialised ailments, the doctor will refer you to a specialist or hospital. If no further treatment is necessary, you may receive a prescription for medication. You can then use this prescription to obtain your medication from a pharmacy.
In order to receive treatment in a hospital, you’ll need a referral from a doctor. Important: go to the hospital without first seeing a doctor only for emergencies. Examples of emergencies are:
Acute shortness of breath, pain, or dizziness
Accident or injury
Health hazards caused by drugs and poisons
Disturbance of consciousness
In these urgent cases, it’s best to go directly to the hospital. Alternatively, you can call a Notarzt (emergency medical physician) by dialling 112.
Do you speak only a little German? Many doctors in Germany also speak English. It would be best to have someone with you who can interpret for you. This will help you avoid misunderstandings.