In Germany you can decide for yourself which doctor, dentist or psychotherapist you want to visit. For their part, doctors generally have to treat anyone who is insured.
The family doctor (Hausarzt) or pediatrician (Kinderarzt) is usually the first stop for people who are ill or have other health-related problems. That doctor will decide whether you also need to see a specialist.
If you do, you will be referred to a specialist, such as a gynecologist or a dermatologist. It's also possible to go straight to a specialist or psychotherapist without seeing your family doctor first.
If you need to see a doctor at night, at the weekend or on a bank holiday, you can call the out-of-hours information services (ärztlicher Bereitschaftsdienst) on 116 117 to find out which doctors are on duty near you.
In an emergency such as an accident or a heart attack, emergency services can be reached by dialing 112.
In addition to doctors and dentists, there are a number of other health care professionals, including physiotherapists, speech therapists, nurses and midwives. You will usually need a doctor’s prescription for physiotherapy, speech therapy or home care.
Most medical and dental practices have what is known as a “Kassenzulassung” (statutory health insurance accreditation). You will need to take your insurance card along so that the practice can bill your insurer. The statutory insurers pay fixed amounts for some services such as high-quality dental prosthetics. Any additional costs must be paid out-of-pocket. The exact amount to be paid will depend on the type of dental treatment. Adults also usually need to pay part of the costs of outpatient physiotherapy or speech therapy.
Privately insured patients pay for their treatment up front and are then reimbursed later by their insurer. The level of reimbursement will depend on the individual insurance policy.