About 8 years ago, when we were still living in the US, I went to a dermatologist to have 3 spots on my face looked at. The doctor said that she could easily remove them with a dab of liquid nitrogen but that they would eventually return requiring a repeat of the procedure. True to her word, the spots quickly disappeared and also as she advised they did come back so it was time to see a specialist here in France. We’d already been to the dentist and to our general practitioner and we knew that we’d have to see him again to get a referral since you need that other than for a gynecologist, pediatrician, ophthalmologist, or dentist. Armed with the doctor’s letter we walked two blocks to the next group of medical offices to get an appointment.
Our day-to-day conversations with the neighbors or shopkeepers now go smoothly but these more “official” encounters still make me a little nervous. To lessen the stress I always look up in advance any terms I’m likely to need, especially if we don’t use them on a regular basis. For example, since it’s a Latin-based scientific word I thought I’d be safe by just pronouncing “nitrogen” with a French accent but no, here it’s called “azote”. We also have business/calling cards with our names, address, and phone number to hand to the person requesting that information. That never fails to bring a smile, of relief I would imagine, to that person’s face, since it means they don’t have to decipher our funny accent.
Although we can get a same-day appointment with our GP, that’s not generally the case with a specialist unless your family doctor recommends that you get immediate access to one of her/his colleagues. Since my situation was definitely not urgent, I was given an appointment for 3 months later. Apparently, if I were willing to travel an hour away to Toulouse, for example, I would have been scheduled in much soon, but I was in no hurry.
On the appointed day we went back to the dermatologist’s office, checked-in at the front desk, and then went into the waiting room. Following the polite protocol here, we both said “Bonjour” to each person already seated and they responded in kind. Five minutes later Bill went with me into the doctor’s office where I explained why I was there, did my best to pronounce “azote”, and 5 minutes after that we were back at the reception desk paying 50 euros for exactly the same procedure that had cost the equivalent of 245 euros (275 dollars) eight years prior. The best part is that since we are part of the universal health care plan here that guarantees health coverage to all residents, 3 days later we were reimbursed 34 euros which represents 70 percent of the original charge minus a 1-euro service fee.
While we’re on the topic of medical care, I’ll include a few links below that could be helpful if you’re investigating services here. If you sign up for it, your medical records can be shared among your doctors making it easier to access your history. Although not all doctors are participating yet, online appointments mean that you get to see the calendar of open dates rather than going back and forth with the receptionist to find an agreeable time. The government maintains a database of what prescription drugs should cost and the pharmacy industry has just opened their own website that will allow individual pharmacies to publish the prices they charge for drugs that do not require a prescription.
Online medical records sign-up: https://www.dmp.fr/
Online doctor appointments: https://www.doctolib.fr/
Prescription drug prices: http://base-donnees-publique.medicaments.gouv.fr/
Pharmacy industry website: https://www.lepharmacien.fr/