Health For Members

Six things to know about visiting a doctor in Austria

Hayley Maguire
Hayley Maguire - [email protected]
Six things to know about visiting a doctor in Austria
E-cards are used at every doctor's visit in Austria. (Photo: Claudio Bresciani/TT)

Going to the doctor is a necessary part of living overseas, but expect to come across a few cultural quirks when going for a check up in Austria.


Austria is known for having an excellent medical system with easy access to specialists and a focus on preventative health care.

But there are some cultural quirks to get used to when it comes to visiting a doctor in Austria, and at times the experience might feel alien to that in your home country.

Here’s what you need to know.


FOR MEMBERS: Everything foreigners need to know about the Austrian healthcare system

Take money for optional extras

Social insurance in Austria covers most medical checks and procedures, but there are a few optional extras that require an additional charge.

For example, many gynaecologists carry out breast checks - but at an extra cost that often has to be paid in cash. 

Also, a visit to a skin specialist to check moles might not be fully covered by social insurance, which means paying for a percentage of the cost either up front or later.

This can be confusing, especially for people from countries like the UK where the cost of an appointment is covered by the National Health Service (NHS) and it's rare to hand over cash to a doctor (unless at a private practice). 


If in doubt, ask your Hausarzt (GP) or a receptionist when making a booking to find out if there is an extra charge to pay, or stop off at the ATM on the way just in case.

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Get ready to strip off

Visiting a doctor in Austria often involves a physical examination so expect to take off at least some clothing.

And if you make an appointment for a full medical, prepare to strip down to your bra and pants (for ladies) or boxer shorts (for men). 

For this reason, carefully consider your underwear choice before heading to the doctors and perhaps dig out your best pieces to avoid any embarrassment.

Be prepared to wait

Most Hausarzt practices in Austria operate on a drop-in basis during set times. 

The advantage of this system is that it's possible to see a doctor on a Wednesday morning without an appointment - as long as you have time to wait.

But if you are in a rush, or have a strict schedule, then the drop in approach can be time consuming. Depending on when you arrive, it could mean a short wait of several minutes or up to an hour.

The best advice is to arrive just as the doors open to secure a place near the top of the queue.

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Don’t be put off by a stern receptionist or doctor

Ask a group of international residents about their experience of going to the doctor in Austria and you will probably hear about how the bedside manner is "different".

This is because some doctors, or even receptionists, have a stern and direct approach when dealing with patients, which can be intimidating for newcomers to the country.

Rest assured though, it's nothing personal and medical care in Austria is usually thorough.

So if you come across a grumpy doctor, the best way to handle it is to either toughen up or find a different doctor.


Expect to be referred to a specialist

Visiting a Hausarzt in Austria is often like visiting a medical gatekeeper as they are responsible for referring patients to specialists.

Thankfully, due to the small population in Austria (just over nine million), an appointment with a specialist can be booked quickly, unlike in other countries where waiting times can be months or even years.

This means medical issues can be treated quickly by a specialist doctor, rather than trying to find the cause of an issue with a more generalised practitioner.

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Look out for a tip jar

Yes, you might come across a tip jar at a doctor’s practice, usually in the form of a piggy bank in the reception area.

But don’t worry - you are not expected to tip your doctor in Austria. After all, you are already paying social insurance or private insurance premiums.

The tip jar is simply put out by the administration staff and the money is then used to buy coffee and cake for the office team.

There is also no pressure to leave a tip (or Trinkgeld in German) - only if you want to.


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