Going to the doctor

Going to the doctor

This article will explain a bit more about going to the doctor in France.

We’ll cover the ways : 

  • To book an appointment
  • To get reimbursed

We won’t cover : 

  • The ways to handle emergencies (There are specific services in french hospitals – Les Urgences)

Which one to choose ?

Parcours de soin and médecin traitant ?

Before going to the doctor in France, there are two concepts that you need to know : 

  • Parcours de soin (health pathway) : a couple of steps to follow in order to not have a huge medical bill
  • Médecin traitant (your assigned GP) : a practitioner that you chose and you’ll always see as your GP.

Parcours de soin – What is it ?

You may have heard that France has a generous health care system, and it’s true. Most french people don’t realise it and won’t stop complaining about “La Sécu”, the social security. This generosity implies that a lot of money is spent in our social system (around 700 billions € a year).

In order to regulate the spendings, a system of “Parcours de soin” (health pathway) has been implemented.

Parcours de soin – What does it entail ?

It’s very simple. It means you have to see a GP before going to a specialist. If you’re not referred to a specialist by a GP, the fees may be topped up.

When I say a specialist, I cover all the doctors that you hope to never see in your life (gastroenterologists, …).

Dentists and ophthalmologists are not specialists, you can go and see them as you please.

Does any doctor work as a reference ?

Theoretically no. In order to go and see a specialist, you should first make a stop at your “médecin traitant”. 

But it is not frowned upon to see any GP to get the reference, even if he is not your own.

What is a médecin traitant ?

The médecine traitant can be a GP but not always.  It could be your homeopath, your gynaecologist etc. Basically, it’s a health professional that know you a bit more than the others.

How do you select your médecin traitant ?

  1. Go online on your “assurance maladie” personal space. 


  • In order to log in, you’ll need your social security number (here is how to get one)
  • The French government set up a system that helps you connect to different bodies of the administration like the Impôts (Taxes), the health system etc. It’s called France Connect and it’s awesome.
  1. After logging in, click on “Mes informations” category in the top-right-hand corner and fill in the info.

Or you just ask the doctor to be your “médecin traitant” during your consultation and they’ll do the thing for you.

The timeline

Let’s take a look at what it will look like with my friend Napoleon. He’s been having a stomach ache for some time now and he is a busy guy, a lot of countries to conquer etc. He hasn’t had time to look at what to do yet.

What does a visit look like ?

Should I book an appointment or just walk-in ?

You can do both, provided the doctor you want to see offers both options.

How do I find a doctor ?

Usually, when you look for a doctor, you’ll type “médecin” or “généraliste” in google map and that will show you all the GP within your area. Typing on their name will show you if they do walk-ins or appointments.

Another way, that is the preferred option, is to use a booking platform. There are to main in France : 

Personally, I use Doctolib. It’s very user friendly and you’ve got a lot of info, especially if the doctor speaks another language.

Where can I find an english speaking doctor ?

Both Doctolib (in French) and Maiia (in French) offer the option to search their directories by language spoken. 

You can also skim through some expat groups on Facebook where people share their recommendations.

Before going 

What documents should you take ?

  • Your carte vitale
  • Your previous prescriptions if you consult for the same reason

That’s it.

Upon Arrival

There is this myth going around that doctors are always late and that you can arrive with a 15 to 30m delay. Let’s not kid ourselves, it’s true most of the time but not all the time. And usually, if the doctor is late, it’s because they take the time to treat every patient with the care and attention they deserve.

Most doctors don’t have a staff or a secretary. Upon arrival, you just ring at the “interphone” and they buzz you in. Don’t forget to check the floor before you go.

You’ll have to look for the waiting room “ Salle d’attente”. It’s fairly common to greet the people that are already there with a “Bonjour”. This is just in order to not get weird looks.

What happens after ?

How am I going to be reimbursed

and how much ?

There are several options and this is where things may get a little complex.

There are two types of doctors in France :

  • Conventionné ou Secteur 1 : it means that you’ll be reimbursed with the Social security barema. That ‘s the case for most GPs and it’s mentioned on their Doctolib profile. In short, it means you won’t have to pay too much.
  • Non-conventionné ou Secteur 2 : it means the reimbursement barema from Social security won’t apply and you may pay more (dépassement d’honoraire).

The payment to a doctor is an “honoraire” and the secteur 2 doctors go above the normal honoraire, hence the “dépassement d’honoraire” (extra fee). For some treatment and actions, secteur 1 can also add some extra fees.

How does reimbursement work ?

You’ll pay for an act, let’s say 25€ for a consultation with a “médecin traitant” (which is a standard rate for every secteur 1 GPs).

To that amount, is applied a rate called “taux de remboursement” (reimbursement rate). This is how much the healthcare system is going to reimburse you. For a consultation with your “médecin traitant”, it’s 70%. It’s only 30% if didn’t declare a “médecin traitant”

So, you pay 25€ and you’ll get 17,50€ back, that seems correct.

But you’ll see that you only get 16,50€. This is because there is a special 1€ fee.

Basically, this is way to calculate :

How much was the consultation (honoraires) ?What is the taux de remboursement ?Are there any additional fees ?My final pay back will be : 
25€70%Yes – 1€16,50€

The cost of the “honoraires” and the reimbursement rate vary depending on the type of doctor and the type of act they perform.

For more info, please check the dedicated article.

How do I get my medicine ?

At the end of the session, if need be, the doctor will give you a prescription (ordonnance) to get your medicine. Most of the time, it will be written in an ​​indecipherable penmanship but don’t worry.

You’ll just need to take your prescription and your carte vitale and go to the closest pharmacy. The person behind the counter will; like magic, be able to read said prescription and give you what you need !

Tips and tricks 

  • Make sure you respect the “parcours de soin” in order to lift some costs.
  • Check the prices of the doctor before going. If nothing is written, then, it’s the social security rate that applies.
  • The French government set up a system that helps you connect to different bodies of the administration like the Impôts (Taxes), the health system etc. It’s on France Connect and it’s awesome.

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Interview with David, 33, from the USA 🇺🇸 - Urban Index
2 months ago

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