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Finding and registering with a doctor - A guide for expats in Switzerland

Updated on November 16, 2023

Moving is an exciting time. Visiting a doctor is certainly not your first priority when you are newly arrived in Switzerland. Nevertheless, it is beneficial to find out about how to find a doctor and register early on so that you are prepared in case of an emergency. In this article, you will find all the important information about this.

Just like the education system, the health care system in Switzerland is one of the best in the world. In case of illness or accident, the health insurance covers a certain part of the costs. Therefore, it is important that you take out a health insurance within the first three months after your relocation to Switzerland. This is required by law and primarily protects yourself. The health insurance must be paid retroactively to the date of entry.

How do I search and find a suitable doctor in Switzerland for me?

There are different insurance models in Switzerland. When looking for a doctor it depends, among others, on which model of insurance you have. All persons living in Switzerland have in principle free choice of doctor in the basic insurance. However, if you choose a more favorable model, your choice may be limited, which consequently also leads to a reduction in premiums.

In the standard model, you may choose your doctor for all treatments. With alternative models, you are required to go to points of contact such as health centers, pharmacies or family doctors/group practices. The Telmed model is also becoming increasingly popular. In the event of an illness, a preliminary clarification is first made by telephone with experts. However, to ensure that you also receive direct personal support in an emergency and do not have to wait a long time in the emergency room, we recommend that you always seek out a family doctor or family practice. Through repeated contact, the doctor also knows about any allergies, medical history and more, which is important. In the event of an emergency, a visit to a gynecologist or ophthalmologist, as well as maternity treatment, you also have a free choice of doctor for almost all models.

Where can I find a suitable family doctor?

If you already have a family doctor but the practice closes, he or she will usually take care of placing you with another practice or recommend other practices. If this is not the case, you can contact the medical association in your canton of residence. Depending on the insurance model, however, even the health insurance company will give you information about the available general practitioners who work with them, thus limiting your choice at the same time.

The homepage of your insurance company can also be helpful here. Often, you can also search for family doctors in your surroundings on these and find treating physicians who cooperate with the insurance company.

Online, there are also numerous portals where you can enter your place of residence to find doctors or practices in your area. These include:

  • OneDoc
  • Doctorfmh.ch
  • Doktor.ch
  • Docapp

What should I look for when searching?

It is important that you pay attention to the following points, among others, when choosing a doctor:

  • Professional license: It is important that the doctor is licensed to practice. Information on this can be found in the medical directory or medical professional register (medreg.admin.ch).
  • Certifications/Continuing Education: Find out about any training or continuing education the doctor has received. In official directories such as the Medizinalberufreregister, you can view this information online. In principle, physicians must undergo continuing education at regular intervals.
  • No flashy practice moves: Be wary of practices that have moved their location to another canton in recent years. This is because such relocations are an indication of requirements imposed by the cantonal physician. And these requirements can differ from canton to canton.
  • Interpersonal factors: Since your family doctor is often the first point of contact for medical complaints, he or she should be sympathetic to you. Only if you can establish a relationship of trust and share your concerns can you also receive optimal advice and treatment.

Registration and first visit to the doctor

What is the procedure for registering with the doctor?

Registration can be done in a number of ways. Virtually all primary care physicians' offices can be reached by phone as well as email, so these are probably the most commonly used ways to register for a new visit. Another option would be to register in person on site. However, a prerequisite for successful registration and admission is that the doctor has sufficient free capacity, which is not always the case given the shortage of doctors in Switzerland. You have a better chance of being admitted if you have either been referred by your old family doctor, if you have a group practice or family doctor model in your health insurance, or generally with new practices. However, since new residents usually do not have a primary care physician in Switzerland yet because they have recently moved in, there is no referral possible.

What do I have to pay attention to at the first visit?

At your first visit, you will have to fill out a personal data sheet, which the practices need to record your data. For this, be sure to bring your ID as well as your health insurance card. In addition, it is advisable to request your records from your previous primary care physician. These give insight into the previous medical history and show applied treatments, as well as allergies and more.

Are you new in Switzerland and need professional support and advice? We will be happy to explain everything you need to know about living in Switzerland, find the right health insurance for you and accompany you personally and competently. Contact us now!

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Evgeniy Timoshenko

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