Expats certainly aren’t disappointed with the healthcare system in Switzerland: only 8% of the expats currently living there are unhappy with the quality of medical care, according to the Expat Insider 2016 survey. With a combined network of public, subsidized private and fully private doctors’ offices and hospitals, it’s no wonder that Switzerland also placed second in the 2015 Euro Health Consumer Index.
This high-quality healthcare system does come at a price, though. You can read more about the costs in our article on Health Insurance in Switzerland.
After a pharmacist, the doctor is the first point of call for anyone in Switzerland who isn’t feeling like their normal self. Unless your insurance policy states otherwise, you are free to choose your own doctor in Switzerland.
Finding the right doctor is pretty straightforward. As always, word of mouth is a great source of advice for expats new to Switzerland. You can also use the DocApp website or the directory run by the Swiss Medical Association for searching by postcode to find your nearest medical professional, or by the type of doctor you are looking for. Alternatively, all medical professionals in Switzerland are listed in the Yellow Pages.
Not all health professionals speak English, but there is normally an interpreter on hand. If you’d feel more comfortable with a doctor who speaks your native language, contacting your embassy is a good first step.
When you got to the doctors, do not forget to take a copy of your insurance policy, your insurance card, or your European Health Insurance Card with you.
Most Swiss residents choose a pediatrician to care for their child’s health, and there is normally a registered pediatrician in every doctor’s practice. State schools also often have a school medical service. This is overseen by the canton and the doctor will carry out checkups in schools and monitor immunization and vaccination status, administering injections if necessary — all with the parents’ permission, of course!
Hospitals in Switzerland are renowned for providing care to an extremely high standard. Unlike many other countries, the first port of call, should you begin to feel unwell, is your family doctor or GP — unless it is an emergency. Going to your GP first means they can refer you to the specialist that you need to see. This system has worked very well in Switzerland, reducing waiting times and helping patients to get seen to and treated much more quickly.
Your insurance policy determines which hospitals you can visit and the ward you’ll be admitted to. With a basic insurance policy, you will normally be admitted to a general ward, with three to six other beds. If you contribute towards a complementary insurance policy, depending on the policy guidelines, you will be admitted to either a semi-private room (with two beds) or a private (single) room.
If you have been referred to the hospital, it will most likely be in your local canton so you (hopefully!) won’t have too far to travel. Hospitals in Switzerland are clearly signposted and easily recognizable — the national sign is a white ‘H’ on a blue background.
Basic health insurance policies will cover your medical treatment, nursing care, and your outpatient treatment, if necessary. You will, however, be asked to pay a set fee per day towards these costs. The amount of this fee varies, depending on the treatment you receive and the duration of your stay in hospital.
Below is a list of the main hospitals in major expat cities in Switzerland, but a full list of the medical institutions across Switzerland is available on the website of the Swiss Leading Hospitals.
Each time you visit a doctor’s office or a hospital, you should take proof of your health insurance policy with you. While some hospitals will send a bill directly to your insurance company, the majority will send the bill to you in the post. You will need to pay the bill yourself within a certain time frame and then send a copy of both the bill and the invoice to your insurance company, who will then reimburse you.
A word of warning: If you have to go to hospital and have no insurance at all or an insurance policy that will not cover your treatment, hospital will ask for an upfront payment. This payment can be anything up to 12,000 CHF, so do make sure you have sufficient health insurance coverage.
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