Healthcare in Germany: the time-saving tech for expats

Think of Germany and most people think of an uber-efficient nation. But expats living in Europe‘s economic powerhouse are sometimes surprised by the variations in healthcare provision.

Healthcare in Germany: the time-saving tech for expats
Photo: Getty

Now, ottonova private health insurance is capturing the technological zeitgeist with its innovative digital solutions.

Patients wait an average of four days to see a primary care doctor in Germany, according to a 2018 study. Most practices are traditionally closed on Wednesday afternoons and at weekends. With 85 percent of people relying on public health insurance, these factors have led to overcrowded hospital emergency departments.

Germany is reforming its healthcare system to tackle these problems. But the changes, along with a high proportion of people aged over 65, are contributing to rising public healthcare costs. Here are six ways choosing ottonova private health insurance for expats earning €62,550+ a year could save you time – and worry.

Health insurance made easy: find out how ottonova could save you time and worry

1. Concierge support in English

You are feeling a little “kaputt” and know you should see a doctor. But the thought of struggling to get through on the phone followed by 30 minutes in a waiting room – the average wait with public insurance in Germany – is making you delay. Sound familiar? 

Smart, digital technology now dominates our lives. But when it comes to health, even millennials seem stuck on analogue; only 4 percent plan doctor’s appointments online, according to a Forsa Institute study for ottonova. Yet 71 percent say they would use a fully digital health insurance service.

Ottonova offers exactly that, starting with its app and dedicated concierge team. Just pick up your handy (mobile phone), open the app and instantly chat with a named team member for anything about your health and insurance.

Whether you have an urgent need or want a preventive checkup, your concierge can find the right doctor and quickly arrange an appointment. Digitalization speeds things up – but the human touch remains crucial to making customers‘ lives easier.

2. Doctor video consultations – within minutes 

You have a tight schedule you can‘t change – or suddenly feel so poorly that you want to stay in bed. Neither possibility poses a problem with ottonova private health insurance, which offers video consultations with English-speaking doctors. The waiting time is often under a minute from making a request to the concierge and the service is available 365 days a year.

Getting an instant diagnosis and treatment plan via video can help you manage your work, family and social life. Plus, you can get a sick note – which German employers typically require within one to three days – the same day. Now that’s what we call uber-efficient!

Tired of waiting to see a doctor? Find out more about ottonova’s time-saving video consultations

Photo: Getty Images

3. One app – and no paperwork

As an expat, you’re probably familiar with how frustrating bureaucracy can be. With ottonova, there is no need to worry about misplacing an important document or missing an appointment. You can go paperless by signing up online and using the app, where documents and events appear in a simple overview. Pharmacy and doctor’s visits, prescriptions, concierge chats and incapacity certificates can all be called up whenever needed. 

You can also scan and upload invoices for fast processing. Want to check exactly what your tariff covers? Or send a certificate of contributions to the tax office to support your tax deductions? You’ll find what you need in the app. 

4. English-speaking doctors and staff

Even if you are studying hard to impress with your German, some situations require zero room for misunderstanding. With ottonova private health insurance, you can have all your health-related questions answered in English.

The English-speaking concierge team are available via the app or by phone. Most importantly, they can arrange appointments with English-speaking doctors, either in person or via video call. You can then discuss your symptoms and treatment without feeling you are sitting a German oral exam.

5. Rapid reimbursement 

Consumers have a growing choice of instant ways to pay businesses. But this emphasis on speed is sometimes mysteriously lacking when funds must travel in the opposite direction. Not with ottonova, which can again save you valuable time. Simply upload your invoice via the app and you can expect to receive your money before you even have to pay your bill. Many customers receive the money within hours, while the vast majority of verified invoices are reimbursed within two working days. 

6. Faster access to specialists

Getting an appointment with a specialist often requires a referral (or Überweisung) from a general practitioner. One study found patients with public health insurance waited nearly four times as long as the privately insured – and 17 times as long in the worst instance. It also found the gap was widening.

But when you are insured with ottonova, you can ask the concierge team to arrange an appointment with a nearby specialist without a referral – and you’ll often get one within a few days. Your concierge can also help you quickly get a second opinion; for example, prior to undergoing surgery.

As every doctor knows, prevention is better than cure. In the app, you will also find ottonova’s top tips for staying healthy. After all, there is one thing even more precious than your time: your health.

Get a free, non-binding consultation with ottonova to help you take an informed decision about your future healthcare coverage in Germany – find out how to get your personal consultation now

This article was produced by The Local Creative Studio and sponsored by ottonova.

For members


Living in Germany: Newsreader’s giggles, your go-to German word and German Unity Day

In this week's roundup we talk about a German newsreader's fit of giggles, your 'comfort' German word, Oktoberfest and why German Unity Day could have been scrapped as a weekday public holiday.

Living in Germany: Newsreader's giggles, your go-to German word and German Unity Day

Living in Germany is our weekly look at some of the news and talking points in Germany that you might not have heard about. Members can receive it directly to their inbox on Saturday.

Why we love German newsreaders 

The news is a serious business, but things lightened up this week thanks to German newsreader Susanne Daubner’s laughing outburst. In what was a very relatable moment, Susanne, from ARD’s Tagesschau, was trying to report on a summit being held on the chemical industry in Germany, but found something her colleague Sven Lorig said so funny that she launched into giggles – known as a Lachflash in German – and couldn’t stop. Susanne said after that she “couldn’t really explain” what happened. She said she was engrossed in her news report but heard her colleague in the background talking and thought: “Oh dear I’m already on air.” She added: “And then I just had it to laugh. It felt like it lasted forever.” The moment went viral on social media, with many saying it made them laugh out loud.

It reminded us of the moment last October when another ARD German newsreader Annette Dittert sparked a roar of laughter. When Dittert was reporting on the chaotic incidents that happened in the run up to former British Prime Minister Liz Truss’ resignation, she used strong English swear words – something which would be extremely unusual on anglo TV. While describing the chaotic scenes in the House of Commons, Dittert said that the former PM’s deputy whip Craig Whittaker vented his frustration by saying he was “f**king furious and I don’t f**king care anymore” (without blanking out the swear words). Who said Germans don’t have a sense of humour?

Tweet of the week

What’s your go-to German word to ensure you sound engaged in a conversation?

Where is this?


Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Peter Kneffel

We couldn’t resist sharing another photo of Oktoberfest with you. Revellers at the Wiesn have enjoyed blazing sunshine since the festival started on September 16th. It runs up until October 3rd – and just under a week later, on October 8th – Bavarians will go to the polls to vote on their new state parliament. Our columnist Brian Melican this week reported from the Wiesn and gave a fascinating overview of the uneasy political situation in Bayern. And for all those in Hesse – which is voting on the same day – check out our guide to the elections here.

Did you know?

This Tuesday, October 3rd, marks 33 years since reunification and almost 34 years since the fall of the Berlin Wall. It is a public holiday for people in Germany. Because it falls on a weekday this year, it means most people get the day off work and shops and businesses will be closed while Germans spend time with their loved ones or simply take a day of relaxation. But did you know that former German Chancellor (and the now disgraced) Gerhard Schröder tried to remove the Tag der Deutschen Einheit (German Unity Day) as a national holiday in 2004?

 He wanted to move it to a Sunday to give fewer people the day off. In a letter defending his plan, Schröder wrote: “the holiday should not be abolished, but moved to the first Sunday of October every year.” Citing economic reasons, he explained he was committed to reducing the number of national holidays. Unsurprisingly, this wasn’t a very popular suggestion, and it remained on October 3rd. We wish you a wonderful German Unity Day!