The majority of people in Germany will have, as their family doctor, a general practitioner or Hausarzt. When required, the Hausarzt will make referrals to a specialist. However, visiting a specialist without contacting your family doctor is an option.
Because of possible lengthy waiting times, making an appointment (Termin) is recommended. If requiring help urgently an appointment is possible during office hours, but a long wait will be likely. Otherwise, waiting several days to weeks will not be unlikely. This is typical when consulting a dentist or specialist. Waiting, though, can still be expected even when an appointment has been made. Usual surgery hours and appointment times can vary widely, though they will normally be each morning, but not each afternoon. Not many surgeries will be open on Saturday/Sunday, while, during holiday times, a locum will usually deal with patients.
A local telephone directory will have the names and addresses of doctors, and specialists can be found in the Yellow Pages (Gelbe Seiten) under Ärzte. It's your choice which doctor you want.
The majority of doctors will have a grasp of basic English, though it's possible to get a list of English-speaking doctors, or doctors who speak your native language by contacting your embassy or consulate.
If you are covered by German health insurance, a plastic ID card will be given to you by your insurance company. The ID card will be required when visiting a doctor (Krakenversicherungskarte). Within the card is a chip containing your personal data. This will be screened on your initial visit by your doctor's secretary. Because of statutory health insurance accreditation (Kassenzulassung) the insurer covers any costs.
In the instance of your being insured by the state, the insurance company will receive the bill directly from your doctor. €10 (payable in cash) will be the fee for your first visit each quarter. Once you've paid you'll be reimbursed by your insurance company - when you have private insurance.
Also to be noted is that some doctors will only treat clients who have private insurance. When you make an appointment do check whether or not you have state insurance. A Kassenarzt or Alle Kassen sign will be typically displayed in the surgeries of doctors who deal with state-insured clients. If you are not treated by a Kassenarzt, then you cannot be reimbursed via a state insurance scheme.
Particularly when it comes to young children and adults over 35, regular medical check-ups are advisable, as well as regular visits to your dentist. Information on preventative check-ups is available from doctors, hospitals and health offices.
State insurance has markedly cut the cover for dental treatments. Private insurance won't necessarily mean you will be reimbursed totally - only basic dental care is covered by statutory health insurers. You should check your insurance company's reimbursement policy before selecting a dentist, and firstly getting a written estimate regarding costs is recommended.
As in Germany dental costs are very high it's common for many foreigners, when they have a trip back home, to have their dental treatment done there. Even some Germans now choose to have their dental treatment carried out in other European countries. Therefore, a complete check-up is advised before you go to Germany.
Natural cures are specialist areas for many doctors, and health insurance companies will cover some costs. Also seek out basic information on doctor and dentists in Germany before you travel there.