Italy has an excellent healthcare system that is among the best in the world, and certainly in Europe. In fact, Italy has the highest number of doctors per capita in the world, with an incredible 1 doctor for every 160 people, compared to only 1 doctor for 500 people in the United States!
Is It Easy To Find An English Speaking Doctor?
As an Expat, if you don’t speak Italian, you might find it difficult at first to find a doctor that speaks fluent English. However, in the cities and holiday resorts you can always find bilingual medical services which cater specifically to tourists, known as ‘guardia medica turistica’. Alternatively, you can contact the local Embassy or consulate who keep regularly updated lists of English speaking doctors throughout the country.
Another way to find an English speaking doctor in your area is to get in touch with the Expat community on social media. They will be able to give you information about the doctors that they use and will be more than happy to help you out!
In Italy, family doctors, or General Practitioners (GPs) are listed in the yellow pages phone book under the category of ‘Medici Generici’ while specialist doctors are found under the ‘Specialisti’ category, with their specialism listed beside their names.
How Do You Register With A Doctor?
While you are in Italy you are entitled to make use of the national health service however first you must register with the medical authorities, known as the ‘Servizio Sanitario Nazionale’.
When you do register you will have to select a general practitioner and sign a social security agreement which is called the ‘medico convenzionato’. If you have children who are under the age of 6 years then you will also have to register with a pediatrician, or ‘pediatra’ in Italian. Your general practitioner will be responsible for overseeing your medical history and putting you in contact with specialists if it is necessary.
Doctors in Italy are extremely friendly and as well as helping you with any medical issues they also give you advice on healthy eating and living. If you stay in the country for a prolonged amount of time then your local doctor will start to feel like a member of your family so you should have no concerns about approaching them on any number of problems that you might be experiencing.
The local health authorities in Italy will provide you with a complete list of doctors that are available for you to register with. Once you have the list you can choose any one of the doctors who has spaces in their practise within a defined radius from your home address.
When you do register with your general practitioner each member of your family will be given a unique national health number, which is called a ‘tessera sanitaria’. You should keep your national health number somewhere safe because you need to bring it with you every time you visit your doctor. The doctors use this number to keep track of your medical history.
As well as operating private practices general practitioners in Italy also work in group surgeries, or ‘poliambulatorio’. These group practices can either be run by the state or on a private basis. The group practices are excellent health resources and provide a vast range of services in all areas of medical specialties.
At any group practise, you can find experts in fields as diverse as allergology, dermatology, genecology, cardiology, physiotherapy, radiology, sports medicine and more. This is one of the world leading features of the Italian healthcare system and is designed to take the pressure off the emergency units in hospitals. You will receive fast and personalized service if you need to attend your local group practise. To find out where the local group practices are you can contact your regional health authorities and they will give you the guidance that you need.
Surgery Hours, Visits and the Fees You Need To Pay.
If you need to see a doctor, for any reason, while you are in Italy then you can make an appointment to see a privately practicing doctor, a relevant specialist or a consultant at any time. The waiting times in Italy are extremely short due to the excellent ratio of doctors to patients. When you do make an appointment you have the absolute freedom of choice as to the doctor you see as long as you are willing to pay their fees.
The Italian healthcare system is a combination of free, national health services and private practices. This means that regardless of your budget you can get the help you need at any time.
Many doctors in Italy personally work in both a private capacity and as part of the national healthcare services. You might, for example, visit your doctor in their role as a member of the free national healthcare service and then be advised to see them in a private capacity.
In order to see a private doctor you will have to pay an upfront registration fee of approximately 12-20 Euros. This covers the costs of processing your paperwork and loading your medical details onto the practice’s database.
Following your registration fee, you will have to pay a fee for each visit to the privately practicing doctor that can range from 40 to 200 Euros. When you do visit the doctor you will be expected to pay the fee straight after your visit and this applies even if you have health insurance. You can then claim the cost of your fees back from your health insurance later on. If you do make an insurance claim for medical treatment you can usually offset these costs from your income tax, so it’s important to keep all the receipts from your doctor.
The hours that doctor’s surgeries are open vary from place to place in Italy however, as a general rule they are open from 8-10am and from 3-5pm during weekdays. Other surgeries open from 8am until 1pm during the week. You will have to speak to your local doctor to find out when they are open to see you.
Do You Need To Make An Appointment To See A Doctor In Italy?
It’s preferable to make an appointment in advance but there will always be times when you can’t and so you can still arrive at your doctor’s surgery without an appointment.
The surgeries are run on a ‘first come first serve’ basis so if you do need to see a doctor without having made an appointment first you should try to arrive as soon after they open as possible. If you do arrive later, you may have to wait for a long time to see your doctor.
If you need medication then you will need to see your doctor first and get a prescription. After you’ve got your prescription you need to take it to the pharmacy where they will give you the medicines you need. Your general practitioner should also be your first point of call if you suspect you need more specialized treatment, such as an X-Ray.
Doctors in Italy can also make house calls if you are too ill to visit the surgery yourself. To arrange a house call you should call your general practitioners surgery after which they can visit you during normal working hours in the week.
For specialist medical treatment you can choose to make use of your social security benefits and go to the national healthcare services or you can go private and pay for the treatment yourself.
One thing to remember though, is that if you have had specialist tests done on you, for example an X-Ray or blood tests, then you need to keep the results and give them to your doctor yourself. The test results, unlike in other European countries, are not sent directly to the doctor to help to protect patient’s privacy.
Fees For Treatment and Seeing A Doctor.
As an Expat or immigrant in Italy, if you have already registered with social security, then the most you will have to pay for any specialist treatments or tests is about 40 Euros although many procedures, such as X-Rays, cost much less, with some costing as little as 5 Euros.
Your entitlements to low cost medical treatment largely depends on your income which means that if you are earning less than 37,000 Euros per year you are eligible. Or course, regardless of your income you can always choose to use private medical services.
If you are away from home and can’t get to your regular doctor’s surgery you can visit any doctor who is registered with the national health service. After you’ve seen them you will be given a receipt which you can take to your own doctor when you have the opportunity so that they can take over the management of your treatment and make any necessary referrals.
Visiting Doctors in Italy is Easy and Convenient.
The medical services in Italy are hard to find fault with and so as an Expat you can be sure that you will always have access to superb doctors, treatments and facilities. When it comes to seeing your local general practitioner you need to remember that their opening hours can be fairly limited but if you arrive early you will be seen very quickly.
If you need extra information about the medical services in Italy you can also contact your local embassy or the Italian health authorities who will be happy to help you in any way that they can.