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Doctors in France: appointments, prescriptions, and more

Updated: Sep 17, 2022

Concerned about seeing a medical professional in France? Find out where you can locate one, what to anticipate during the appointment, and how to be ready for it before you go.

Learning how to navigate the French healthcare system is a vital element of your new life, even if it may not be the part of being an expat in France that is the most pleasant. To our great relief, the healthcare system in France is both one of the greatest and one of the most reasonably priced in the world. The majority of the process is basic, however, some of the language and documentation that is required may be a little bit complex.

On the other hand, even for the most seasoned of expatriates, the learning curve may be rather high. There is a great deal to figure out, including but not limited to dentists, hospitals, and everything in between.

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COVID-19 in France

Everyone has had a rough time during this period of the COVID-19 epidemic. A significant number of people who go abroad find themselves cut off from their friends and loved ones back in their native country. As a foreigner, it might be difficult at times to discover essential information on the prevalence of coronavirus infection, local measures and limits, and now, luckily, vaccines. Vaccinations are now available.

Read the website Coronavirus (COVID-19) website to get information on the overall coronavirus situation in France, including vaccination regimens and the most recent restrictions.

Consult our guide on the COVID-19 pandemic in France if you would need information specifically about how the COVID-19 pandemic impacts France.

Doctors in France

As of January 2021, there are 214,200 physicians in France below the age of 70 according to the Direction de la research, des études, de l'évaluation et des statistiques. This number consists of 94,538 general practitioners as well as 119,686 specialists; oral surgeons are not included in this total.

In France, as is the case in many other countries, an increasing number of medical professionals are opting to specialise in their fields of practice rather than practise general medicine. Because of this, it is now more difficult in certain locations to locate a general practitioner.

By custom, the vast majority of physicians in France conduct their little practises, either on their own or with one or two colleagues. However, medical centres that have more than one physician on staff are also becoming more widespread.

Who exactly has access to medical treatment in France?

The only thing that separates residents from non-residents' access to medical care in France is the out-of-pocket expenses that each party is responsible for paying.

A normal consultation might cost anything from €25 to €55, depending on the area of expertise of the attending physician and the therapy being recommended. For French inhabitants, the state pays a major percentage of these costs; however, for tourists and visitors, this is not the case.

As a result, you may want to make arrangements for additional coverage even if you are only going to be there for a short time. It is possible that purchasing health insurance that caters to expats would be your best choice, but that will depend on the duration of your stay and the kind of visa you have.

You will need to apply for your carte vitale, which is the French health insurance card when you become a resident. You will then use this card to pay for any medical services you get in the future. Passports are the only acceptable forms of identification for visitors staying in the country for less than 90 days.

Finding a doctor in France

Everyone in France can choose their physician at their discretion.

Finding a doctor in France often starts with an internet search, just as it does with most other things in this day and age. A few of the most often used directories are Doctolib (in French), Keldoc (also in French), RDV Médicaux (also in French), and Ameli, the official government online for healthcare information (in French).

These websites provide information on doctors, including their names, specialities, addresses, and phone numbers, as well as whether or not they accept the carte vitale and the costs of their services. On the other hand, these websites do not provide testimonials from previous clients. Your best choice is to do a search on Google for them, talk to people who are already living in the area and are expatriates, or check for recommendations on a local Facebook group.

For instance, the search for a physician is made simpler in the areas around Paris and the southern part of France since there is a higher concentration of médecins généralistes (general practitioners), which means that more of them are willing to take on new patients.

It may be far more challenging to locate a doctor in other parts of France who is willing to take on new patients.

Finding English-speaking doctors in France

Both Doctolib (in French) & Maiia (also in French) provide users with the ability to search their respective directories according to the language that is being spoken. Additionally, the Australian Embassy in France has been kind enough to compile and publish a list of English-speaking medical professionals working there.

However, nothing can top the reliability of a personal endorsement. There are several Facebook groups for those who have moved to France permanently, such as Americans in France or Expatriates in Paris and Suburbs, where members are more than willing to provide their advice.

Registering with a doctor in France

In France, registering with a doctor is completely voluntary; yet, doing so does come with several important financial advantages.

If you utilise the same doctor for all of your consultations and designate that doctor as your médecin traitant (primary care physician), you will be paid for the majority of your medical expenses at a rate that is 70% higher than the standard rate. If you do not declare a physician to be your médecin traitant, the most that your carte vitale will pay you is 30% of your medical expenses.

Finding a médecin traitant

In France, registering a physician as your primary care physician is a straightforward process. During your scheduled visit, all you have to do is ask the attending physician to act as your médecin traitant. If they are willing to work with you, they will either submit the required information to your Caisse primaire d'assurance maladie (CPAM) online on your behalf or provide you with a form to fill out, which you may then send to your CPAM. To register, you will need to provide either your social security number or your carte vitale.

Your desire for a physician to serve as your traitor does not need to be granted. In most cases, the information on whether or not they are accepting new patients may be found on their internet profile. Whether they do not have a website and you are calling to schedule an appointment over the phone, you will be asked if you have ever visited the doctor before, and they will inform you if they are not currently accepting new patients. This occurs only if they do not have an online presence.

It is possible for members of the same family to share the same primary care physician or to have their physicians, but each individual is required to register separately with a primary care physician. There is no possibility of registering a whole family all at once.

You may need to make a few phone calls before you discover a nearby physician that is willing to see new patients in your area. In most cases, this does not present an issue in Paris; but, in other cities and more rural regions, there is a scarcity of médecins généralistes (general practitioners), which means that many GPs are now at capacity. Do not give up if it takes you a few calls to locate a doctor; do not let that discourage you.

Using an online doctor in France

In France, you have the option of registering with an online doctor in addition to the more conventional approach of searching for a medical practice in your neighbourhood. Through the use of video consultations, users of these online platforms are allowed to communicate directly with qualified medical professionals. Be aware, however, that the healthcare provider may not be able to communicate with you in the language that you are most comfortable speaking. These online physicians may also provide a variety of other services, such as the delivery of prescriptions and access to medical professionals around the clock, depending on the platform that they use. The following are examples of online physicians in France:

● Allodocteur

● Doctolib

● Zava

Making a doctor's appointment in France

The most widely used healthcare platform in France is called Doctolib, and a growing number of French physicians are beginning to provide online appointment booking as a result (in French). Creating an account and scheduling an appointment is simple, but you will need a French phone number to do so.

To make an appointment with a doctor in a smaller town, you will need to pick up the phone and make a few calls, but online booking is becoming more frequent in larger cities.

You should be able to obtain an appointment with a general practitioner within the week in bigger cities and more populated locations, where there is a greater density of physicians than in places with a lower population density. In any other part of France, you should anticipate a wait of at least two weeks.

Make sure that you take into account the French holidays in your calculations. A significant number of physicians in France take off the full month of July or August for vacation, much like almost everyone else in the nation. In November, they often take a week or two off, and then again for two weeks during the holiday season.

What to expect when visiting a doctor in France

Remember to bring your carte vitale (or a picture ID if you do not have one), along with your chequebook or cash, to your appointment with the doctor before you leave for the appointment. The majority of medical practices in France do not accept payments made using credit or debit cards. Their online profiles, such as those on Doctolib, will often publicise the many types of payment that they are willing to take.

In France, medical practises are often rather modest in size and frequently consist of one- or two-room flats that have been transformed. Most of the time, there will not be a receptionist there, so you will need to just allow yourself in and choose a seat in the waiting area. The medical professional will come and grab you as soon as they are ready to do so. You can expect to wait between 15 and 20 minutes to be seen.

As soon as the physician calls you in, you will go to their office, where you will then take a seat at their desk to start the consultation. The doctor will first request that you hand them your carte vitale, which they will then use to access your medical information by inserting it into a card reader that is linked to their computer.

The physician would often remark "Je vous écoute" (I am listening) or inquire "Qu'est-ce qui vous amène?" (Why have you decided to come in?) At this point, you will be expected to provide a detailed explanation of the purpose of your visit. Because French physicians do not ask patients a lot of questions, you should be sure to bring up anything you want them to check or know about.

Be informed that if you need a physical examination, the doctor will most likely not leave the room even if you need to strip for the examination. You, too, will not be given the option to wear a gown. After the examination, you will return to the doctor's office, get dressed, and then seat down at the desk. After that, they will make any necessary changes to your medical record and issue prescriptions for any medicines, orders for medical testing, or referrals to specialists. If you would want to be referred to a specialist, keep in mind that you may have to be a bit persistent to get one.

At long last, the moment has come to pay. The doctor will first inquire as to whether or not you have a mutuelle, which is a private, supplemental health insurance plan, and then proceed to inform you of the amount that you are responsible for paying.

Alternatives to visiting a doctor’s office

Do you need non-emergency medical attention but are unable to see your primary care physician? House calls are made by many of France's medical professionals. Calls to patients' homes cost anywhere from €35 to €85, with the tiny hours of the morning and the late night being the most costly time of day; however, the majority of these costs may be recovered with a carte vitale.

Since the commencement of the COVID-19 epidemic, there has also been a significant increase in the availability of consultations through the phone and online. These appointments normally cost the same amount as a conventional in-office visit with your family physician. There is a possibility that specialised online procedures may incur extra costs.

Medical specialists in France

Even if it is possible to book an appointment with a specialist without going through your médecin traitant first, you will not get the same level of reimbursement from the French social security system as you would if you got a recommendation from your primary care physician. If you do not have a referral from your primary care physician, the state will only pay for 30% of the cost of a consultation with a specialist.

If you get a recommendation to see a specialist from your primary care physician or your family practitioner, then the state and/or your health insurance provider will pay for a significant portion (if not the whole cost) of your visit to the specialist.

The only exceptions to this rule are gynaecologists, ophthalmologists, and stomatologists, who all get a reimbursement of 70% without the need for a referral. When seeking treatment from a psychiatrist or neuropsychiatrist in France, patients under the age of 26 do not need to go via their primary care physician first. Visit the website of the French state healthcare system for further information on reimbursements and to find out whether it is required to have a consultation with your general practitioner before visiting a specialist (in French).

Finding a specialist in France

In France, finding a medical specialist is accomplished in the same manner as finding a general practitioner. You can search their directories by speciality on the websites Doctolib (in French), Keldoc (in French), RDV Médicaux (in French), and Maiia (in French). You may also do so on the healthcare portal for the French government, which is called Ameli (in French).

Both Doctolib and Maiia allow you to search by language, which is helpful when looking for a French expert who is also fluent in English.

Cost of doctors and specialists in France

The price of a visit to the doctor in France varies depending on whether the medical practitioner is registered as a Secteur 1, Secteur 2, or non-convetionné:

In France, physicians in Secteur 1 are required to charge the fixed rates determined by the social security system. If one of these physicians is your primary care physician or if your GP recommended you to see one of these specialists, you are eligible for a reimbursement rate of 70%.

In France, physicians working in the Secteur 2 are allowed to charge fees that are greater than the rates specified by the government, but these costs must be reasonable. Because the cost of care is paid based on the rate of Secteur 1 physicians, any variation will increase the patient's out-of-pocket expenses.

In France, non-conventionné physicians are free to set their rates for patient care. The state will only pay back the cost of care provided by these physicians at a rate of €0.61 for general practitioners and €1.22 for specialists.

Specialists and general practitioners both fall under these categories.

Regular consultation with a Secteur 1 general practitioner costs €25. Maximum fees for Secteur 1 experts are €35 for psychiatrists and neurologists, €55 for cardiologists, and €60 for neurologists and psychiatrists.

For instance, if you go to your general practitioner, who is classified as Secteur 1, the French social security agency will pay for your appointment by reimbursing you €16.50. That brings the total cost of your consultation up to €8.50, which you must pay. In addition, if your primary care physician recommends that you see a specialist, Social Security will pay for 70% of the visit cost.

Visit the website of the French government for further information on the price of medical care in France.

Health insurance in France

Protection Maladie Universelle, or PUMA, is the name of France's universal public healthcare programme. Thanks to PUMA, practically anybody who has been living in France for more than three months is eligible to enrol for health insurance via the state. Students from other countries are an exceptional case. To have their medical costs covered in France, the majority of students are required to sign up for the student health insurance programme known as the sécurité sociale étudiante (Student social security).

Individuals who are registered with a médecin traitant and who are given a referral by one are eligible to get 70% of the cost of seeing a doctor or specialist in France covered by the state. This involves going for regular checkups at the dentist and the eye doctor. There is no discussion of psychology.

Private health insurance businesses known as mutuelles provide supplemental insurance to customers to compensate for the state's inability to pay for some medical expenses.

The following are some of the most important health insurance providers in France:

● Allianz Care

● April International

● Cigna Global

● Globality

Private doctors and specialists in France

In France, physicians who practise outside of the conventional medical system are known as non-conventionné doctors. These medical professionals do not comply with the tariffs that have been established by social security and instead charge whatever they want for their services. The highest amount of money that the state will repay for a visit to one of these general practitioners or specialists is 1.22 euros.

Although the idea of a separate, private healthcare network does not exist, there are two distinct kinds of hospitals in France: privately managed cliniques privées and public hôpitaux. In the United States, there is only one type of hospital, the public hospital.

Doctor prescriptions in France

The French medical community does not dither when it comes to dispensing prescription drugs. A prescription will often contain pharmaceuticals that are available over-the-counter as well as supplies such as bandages or nasal sprays so that they may be reimbursed by the patient's insurance.

At any of France's pharmacies (pharmacies), you may get your prescriptions filled. Even if your French doctor issues you a prescription for many months' worth of therapy, the pharmacy will often only give you one month's supply at a time even if the prescription is for multiple months. After the pharmacist has made a notation on your prescription, you go back to the store to pick up your pills for the next month. However, if you are going on vacation or will be out of town for an extended time, do not be afraid to ask for more all at once.

Pain medications that are widely used, such as ibuprofen and acetaminophen (sold together under the brand name Doliprane), are accessible over the counter in France and do not need a prescription. However, to get them, you will need to travel to a pharmacy, since food stores in France do not have any pharmaceutical products.

Medical tests in France

The prescriptions for any essential medical tests are written by the attending physicians. This can include anything from testing the patient's blood and urine to doing ultrasounds, x-rays, CT scans, or MRIs. In general, doctors in general medicine in France do not conduct any diagnostic tests in their practices.

After that, it will be up to you to locate a medical biology laboratory or a medical imaging facility and make an appointment to have your tests performed at one of those facilities.

Your findings will be provided to you after your session at the testing location as soon as they are available. In any other case, they will phone you to let you know when it is appropriate to come to pick them up. After you have received your findings, you will need to book a consultation de suivi, which is often known as a follow-up visit, with your primary care physician.

Emergency doctors in France

The vast majority of medical professionals in France see patients solely from 8:00 am to 10:00 pm, Monday through Friday. If you need medical attention outside of these hours or on a holiday that is not an emergency, you may reach a doctor on call by calling 116 117. This doctor is known as a médecin de garde.

Additionally, the French-language service known as SOS Médecins provides access to home calls, in-clinic consultations, and telemedicine visits around the clock.

In the event of a medical emergency in France, this is what you need to know.

In the case that you are experiencing a medical emergency, you need to call:

15 - Services de soins médicaux d'urgence

112 - the emergency number for Europe.

Text messages may be sent to the number 114, which is the emergency number for those who are deaf or hard of hearing.

Making a formal complaint against a medical practitioner or specialist in France

In France, a complaint against a physician may be lodged by anybody. Send a letter that has been signed and stamped, together with a request for a return receipt, to the Conseil départemental de l'ordre des médecins to file an official complaint (CDOM). The letter has to include an explanation of the concerns as well as a list of the particular articles of the ethics code that were broken.

After receiving the formal complaint, the CDOM is required to conduct an arbitration meeting within one month after receiving the complaint. Visit the website of CLEISS to get further details on the procedures.

Le cabinet médical, often known as a doctor's office, is one of the helpful French medical terms.

● un rendez-vous – an appointment

● la douleur – pain

● un rhume - a cold

● mal à la tête – headache, mal à la gorge – painful throat, mal au ventre – stomach discomfort

● la fièvre – fever

● la toux – cough

● une ordonnance - a prescription

● le vaccin - vaccine

● une radio(graphie) – an x-ray

Useful resources

Ameli is the official website of the French government, and it contains information about healthcare prices, reimbursements, and a list of physicians in France.

Health insurance options for non-French nationals living in France – Translation provided by the machine of the French government website, which explains your legal rights and other terminology.

An explanation of the French healthcare system is presented in English by the Center of European and International Social Security Liasons (CLEISS).


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