What to Do When Sick or Injured in Germany

Doctors in Germany

Ger­many has an excel­lent health­care sys­tem, but it can feel a bit intim­i­dat­ing to nav­i­gate as a for­eign­er. Use this quick guide to get started!

How urgent is it?


If you have a med­ical emer­gency, you should call 112.

This will con­nect you to emer­gency med­ical assis­tance and ambu­lance ser­vices. This num­ber works all over Europe.

You can find more infor­ma­tion in our post about emer­gency ser­vices.

Urgent Care

If you need med­ical assis­tance but it’s not life threat­en­ing, you can call 116 117.

This num­ber works in Ger­many Mon­day-Thurs­day from 7:00pm to 7:00am, and Fri­day 2:00pm until Mon­day 7:00. It also oper­ates around the clock on pub­lic holidays.

If you need to see a doc­tor out­side of nor­mal office hours, you can go to one of the local hos­pi­tals. Depend­ing on the urgency of your sit­u­a­tion, you may need to wait quite a long time, but you don’t need an appoint­ment or referral.

Seeing a doctor

Finding a doctor

In the Ger­man health­care sys­tem, you are free to choose your doc­tors. If you have pub­lic statu­to­ry health insur­ance (Geset­zliche Krankver­sicherung, GKV) then you can go to any doc­tor that accepts pub­lic insur­ance, regard­less of which insur­er (Krankenkasse) you use. If you have pri­vate health insur­ance (pri­vate Kranken­ver­sicherung, PKV), then you can vis­it any doc­tor and you may in some cas­es have access to spe­cial office hours.

Web­sites like Doc­tolib and Jame­da offer a com­plete online por­tal includ­ing doc­tor pro­files, con­tact infor­ma­tion, patient rat­ings and reviews, and even online appoint­ment book­ing for par­tic­i­pat­ing doc­tors. Most health insur­ance com­pa­nies also have an online doc­tor search tool as well.

In gen­er­al, it’s best to make an appoint­ment before vis­it­ing any doc­tor or spe­cial­ist. On your first vis­it, you’ll need to com­plete some paper­work, includ­ing a data pri­va­cy form and a med­ical his­to­ry form. Some doc­tors or spe­cial­ists may not be accept­ing any new patients for a peri­od of time, so it’s always a good idea to call in advance.

Primary care physicians

In Ger­many, most med­ical care starts with the Hausarzt, the equiv­a­lent of a pri­ma­ry care physi­cian, fam­i­ly doc­tor, or GP. They han­dle phys­i­cals, rou­tine check-ups, many screen­ings, immu­niza­tions, and over­all well­ness. They also do the ini­tial check of any ill­ness or injury. They may write pre­scrip­tions (Rezepte) for you to fill at the phar­ma­cy, and pro­vide you with a sick note (Arbeit­sun­fähigkeits­bescheini­gung) for your employ­er if you need time off work.

If the Hausarzt is unable to pro­vide you with all the care you need for an ill­ness or injury, they will then refer you to a spe­cial­ist or the appro­pri­ate hos­pi­tal or clin­ic. Gen­er­al­ly a refer­ral (Ueber­weisung) is pro­vid­ed on a spe­cial paper that you will need to hand in to the spe­cial­ist when you see them.


Once you use your refer­ral at a spe­cial­ist office, for exam­ple a der­ma­tol­o­gist (Hau­tarzt), ortho­pe­dist (Orthopäde), or ENT (HNO), you may sched­ule fol­low-up appoint­ments with them direct­ly. Sec­ond opin­ions from anoth­er spe­cial­ist are always pos­si­ble as well, gen­er­al­ly with­out need­ing anoth­er referral.

While most spe­cial­ists in Ger­many require a refer­ral from a Hausarzt, there are a few excep­tions. Women can always vis­it a gyne­col­o­gist (Fraue­narzt) and chil­dren may be tak­en to a pedi­a­tri­cian (Kinder­arzt). You can also sched­ule appoint­ments direct­ly with a den­tist (Zah­narzt) or eye doc­tor (Auge­narzt). In addi­tion, some pri­vate health insur­ance poli­cies may offer an option that doesn’t require vis­it­ing a Hausarzt first.

Useful tools

If you’re wor­ried about fill­ing out forms and com­mu­ni­cat­ing with your doc­tor in Eng­lish, try the Google Trans­late app (Apple or Android). In par­tic­u­lar, there is a cam­era func­tion that allows you to hold your phone over a form or sign and see a trans­la­tion over­laid on it. You can also type some­thing you’d like to say in Eng­lish and have the app read the Ger­man out for you.

You may receive some paper­work with one or more diag­nos­tic codes. You can look up their mean­ings using the ICD code search.