So, you have been to see your medecin traitant and now you have a referral to see a medical specialist (spécialiste) What exactly happens next?
Visiting a Medical Specialist in France
Whether you need to see a dermatologist (dermatologue), a surgeon (chirurgeon), gynacologist (gynécologiste), or any other medical specialist in France, you will typically be referred by your medican traitant.
Often, your doctor will give you a printed letter explaining to the specialist the nature of their referral with some brief background information. They may ring to make an appointment for you or they might give you a list of options for your next steps. You can then ring the specialist’s secretary and make an appointment yourself.
Do you need a doctor’s referral?
In France, you do not need a referral from your doctor to see a gynaecologist or an ophthalmologist, but it is worth considering making appointment with someone who knows you best first.
It is worth noting that for all other conditions, it is best to see your doctor for a referral first otherwise, you may incur higher charges.
Making an appointment with a Medical Specialist: Useful Phrases
Je voudrais prendre un rendez-vous, s’il vous plait – I would like to make an appointment, please
Mon médecin traitant m’a recommandé de prendre un rendez-vous avec ….. – My doctor has recommended I make an appointment with (Mr/Madame……)
Je ne peux pas y aller à cette date mais je suis disponible le… – I can’t make that date but I am available on…
Attending Your Appointment with a Medical Specialist
In France, you carry your medical notes with you so do make sure you have all the relevant documentation with you, including your referral letter from your doctor, your carte vitale and your mutuelle health insurance details. You will also need to take with you a means of payment either a cheque book, credit card or cash.
It may be an idea to check out the parking situation prior to your appointment. In towns and cities, parking can be a little tricky at times and you do not want to miss your appointment. Take change or your credit card for the parking meter.
Expect to go through paperwork with the receptionist on arrival or you may even be sent to a secretary who will take your details and payment prior to or after your consultation. It’s a good idea to arrive five minutes early in order to do this.
You will then be shown to a waiting area and called in when it is your turn.
If you need to be examined, do not be afraid to ask for a robe. Attitudes to nudity can vary and if you feel at all uncomfortable, say: s’il vous plaît, puis-je avoir quelque chose pour me couvrir ? – Please may I have something with which to cover myself?
You will need to explain the nature of your condition so have something prepared if you think you may struggle in French. There are many translation tools at your disposal or if you have a trusted friend who may be able to help, you may wish to call on their services. Many doctors and specialists do speak some English. However, sometimes important elements can be overlooked in the moment, so it pays to be prepared.
Receiving Test Results
Depending on the nature of your visit, the specialist will typically send your results to you by post, and they will also send a copy to your medecin traitant.
If you need further treatment, the specialist will make the necessary arrangements. Normally, there is no need to see your medecin traitant again unless you are told to do so by the specialist.
Costs of Visiting a Medical Specialist in France
The government sets the tariffs for medical treatments. However, many specialists have been granted the right to charge a higher rate and these are called depassements honoraires. These excess charges may be reimbursed by your mutuelle health insurance, but this wholly depends on the terms of your health insurance policy.
If you bypass your medecin traitant, you risk being charged at a higher rate and you also risk your reimbursements being refused by your health insurance – do check the terms of your policy before acting.
Specialists are required by law to display their charges. If you are not sure, ask.
If you are dissatisfied with your specialist, you may go back to your medecin traitant and ask to be referred to see another specialist in the same field, explaining the problem.
Remember, France is recognised as having one of the best health care systems in Europe with the average life expectancy being in the 80’s so, generally speaking, you are in very good hands.
Everything You Need to Know About Healthcare in France
From understanding the French state healthcare system and visiting a doctor to choosing a mutuelle insurance and dealing with your and your family’s health concerns—FrenchEntrée is here to help. Follow our Essential Reading articles for everything you need to know about healthcare in France.