The first step in accessing healthcare in Switzerland is traditionally your general practitioner (GP) or regular doctor. Swiss doctors are highly trained and will be able to provide expert advice and treatment for your medical matters. They are also the first step in admission to a hospital.
Registering with your GP in Switzerland
It is important to register with a general practitioner (Arzt) so that you can access healthcare in Switzerland. Your choice of doctors is dependent on the coverage you select as part of your health insurance in Switzerland. There are many aspects you might want to take into consideration when selecting a general practitioner, for instance, if they offer unique or local services, or can speak different languages.
Who can I choose as my Swiss general practitioner?
When looking for a GP, make sure that your chosen doctor is available to take on more patients and offers care to people with your type of insurance. Generally speaking, supplemental health insurance will give you more numerous benefits and a wider choice of doctors. This would be beneficial should you want a GP who speaks English or is able to offer a specific service.
General admission health insurance
If your health insurance package only covers general admission, you are only able to select physicians within a certain radius of your council (Gemeinde). Your choice depends on your location and the availability of GPs in your area. Specialist GPs are unavailable with this level of cover. You would have to pay extra for the option to choose your own GP. This is the type of admission given with basic health insurance.
Semi-private health insurance
Many semi-private health insurance packages include the ability to choose your own GP. This option must be specifically requested and can cause the cost of your insurance to increase, depending on who you choose. With this option, you are able to register with any GP in Switzerland who is within a “reasonable distance” of your locality. The definition of reasonable distance is down to the discretion of your health insurance provider.
Private health insurance
With a private health insurance package, you are almost always able to select your general practitioner, and you may get the opportunity to pick a specialist or more prominent GP, if they are available. Additionally, your health insurance company will be able to assist you in finding a GP that fulfils your requirements, such as the ability to speak English.
Online doctor’s offices
A number of providers in Switzerland are now offering online services that allow you to access health professionals from the comfort of home. For example, Mobidoctor gives you the option of having an online consultation with an English-speaking doctor seven days a week between 8am and 10pm.
Do I have to switch general practitioner if I change my Swiss health insurance?
If you have modified your Swiss health insurance or are taking out a new policy, you must ensure that your new policy allows you to keep your house doctor (Hausarzt).
Typically, if you switch from a semi-private package to a general admission package, you will have to pay to keep your old GP if they are a specialist or outside of your local area. Before they prepare a quote, most price comparison websites will ask for the details of your current GP and ask whether you wish to keep them. Bear in mind that this may increase the cost of your new health insurance.
Booking an appointment with a GP in Switzerland
In order to book an appointment with a Swiss general practitioner, you must first call ahead of time. Some GP practices, particularly those in larger cities in Switzerland, may also offer online bookings. Swiss general practitioners typically do not have long waiting lists and will be able to fit you in punctually. While you are on the phone, you should try to describe your condition as accurately as possible so that your problem can be dealt with in the best way.
Booking GP appointments with Telmed health insurance
The process of booking an appointment with a GP is different if you have selected the Telmed model of Swiss health insurance. In this instance, you must call a specialist helpline before you can book an appointment with your GP. This pre-consultation call will take around 20 minutes. If the helpline determines that you need to seek medical attention, they will book you to see your GP or refer you to a hospital.
What do I need to bring to my GP appointment?
Once you have been booked in for an appointment, you will be required to bring the following items:
- Residence permit for Switzerland or proof of ID
- Health insurance card
- Any non-prescription medication you have used to treat your condition
Next steps after your appointment with a general practitioner in Switzerland
Once you have been to your GP and have had a full consultation, you may, if necessary, be referred to the next stages in your care. Depending on your condition, this may include:
- Prescription medication from a pharmacy in Switzerland
- Referral to a doctor or specialist
- Admission to a hospital in Switzerland
Paying for an appointment at a Swiss general practitioner
The healthcare system in Switzerland is almost completely privatised, which means that it is the responsibility of the health insurance system to pay for part of your healthcare, with the other part being paid through your premium and deductible. Your GP will charge for their services through your health insurance card.
Emergency care in Switzerland
If you are in a serious condition or have suffered an accident, it is always best to contact the emergency services. People who have suffered an injury are able to bypass general practitioners if it is clear and obvious that medical attention is required.