Going to the Doctor – America vs. Germany

Many of us aren’t fans of going to the doctor. We’d rather pretend our cholesterol or blood pressure is normal. Or the holidays are to blame for our additional weight gain, even if we’re not quite sure which holidays we’re referring to. For whatever reason, visits to the doctor make many of us uncomfortable.

When I began this expat journey, I had to get medical insurance coverage. In order for me to get insurance coverage, I needed a Visa, but in order to get a Visa, I needed medical insurance. Ah, what tangled webs government weave when they practice to peeve. What I found most intriguing in Germany is that insurance companies add on monthly costs for obesity and other medical issues because they’re high risk. But not one insurance company asked me if I smoked. Smoking is big in my area, so it’s interesting that the insurance companies don’t consider serious health issues from smoking as they do with weight.

Anyways, as an expat, I thought I’d show the differences in regards to an office visit in the U.S. vs. Germany. Of course, this comes from my experience only, and may not represent the entire German medical industry.

America

It’s been a while since I’ve been to a doctor in the U.S., so this experience is going back a few decades.

1) I called to make an appointment with a well-known dermatologist. They asked why I needed to see the doctor, and if I had insurance–what I was having problems with, and what kind of symptoms, if any. At the time, I had this dry red spot on my left cheek. This was a big deal to me because I had good skin up to this point.

2) Upon arrival, I filled out a form because it was my first visit. The form contained questions regarding personal data, insurance, and some medical history. Now let me just say that doctors in the states are always busy, so you need to be patient and wait. Never mind that you made an appointment that’s just for the doctor to know how many patients s/he has for the day.

Note: If I was seeing a doctor for some type of body exam, the clinic would provide a gown to change into and then staff would leave while I changed. Since my issue was on my face, I didn’t need a gown, so an assistant took my blood pressure and asked a few more questions.

3) After all that, the doctor came in, looked at my face and said, “Oh that’s nothing.” I responded, “Well, it’s something to me.” He took out a pen, wrote down a few prescriptions, and handed it over. He was about to leave, but I had more questions, such as if there was anything I needed watch out for in regards to washing my face or makeup. He responded with a curt ‘no’ and left the room. He prescribed a bar of soap (they made themselves) and another prescription.

4) Over a few weeks, it went away. Then I received the bill. I was charged over $100 for a 3-minute office visit. Not only that, I had practically chased after him to get questions answered. Some might think, well your symptoms went away, so what’s the big deal. The big deal is if I make an appointment, and I’m required to pay, the least the doctor can do is seem interested in my issue and explain to me what it is and how I can get avoid getting it again.

I rarely went to the doctor. I had to be really sick, in pain or concerned about something for me to bother. Each experience became more and more frustrating.

Germany

1) Since I’m getting older with new issues cropping up, my husband made an appointment for me with a dermatologist. He also wanted a few moles on my back to be looked at. As I get older, I realize going to the doctor is somewhat important, and I may need to go more often than I did in my younger years. When he called to make the appointment, they didn’t ask why I wanted to see the doctor or if I had insurance.

2) Once we arrived, my husband filled out a form because it was my first visit. The form contained questions regarding personal data and insurance. We waited for about 5 minutes, counting filling out the form, before being called into the room.

3) The doctor came in right after us, asked questions regarding my face, and then my husband mentioned my moles. She requested I take off my shirt and bra. No gown? No, excuse me while you change? Just take it off while I stand here. I stood in the room topless, facing the door while the doctor inspected the moles and talked with my husband. Without a knock, an assistant opened the door, and I covered up with my arms. I mouthed to my husband, “WTF.”

Now, Europeans think Americans are prudes when it comes to nudity. Actually, it’s fine with me if they think I am. I appreciate my privacy. Germans are private about so many things, except nudity (I can write a whole blog post about German ads). As I explained to my husband, to me it’s about courtesy and privacy. I find undressing in front of someone to be an intimate action, so I was completely caught off guard when asked to undress. And on top of it, there’s no courtesy in knocking on an exam room door. Sure, why not invite Mr. Mueller in for a quick look.

4) Anyways, she wound up spending about 30 minutes with us. A few weeks later, we received a bill a little over 100 Euros. She asked questions, listened, treated me for my issues, so the cost was comparable to treatment.

Now, I’ll just have to weigh the importance of going to a doctor and stripping down in front of them, or dealing with the issues myself. We’ll see.

Exams and Nudity,
Baer Necessities