What’s a Huisarts?: How going to the Doctor works in the Netherlands

Everyone knows Amsterdam is covered in bikes right? People bike everywhere, and sometimes these people get in accidents. Sometimes, instead of the strangers getting in accidents, it’s you! On December 15th, it was my turn. What came of it though? A trip to the doctor, or to be more correct here in the Netherlands, the Huisarts.

Posted by Michael Anderson at Mar 12, 2017 11:40 PM
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So yes, I know bike accidents are maybe more exciting than doctors visits, but they’re also more embarrassing...So here’s the backstory you get: I was going way too fast at night at the same time someone else was going way too fast and we happened to meet at a corner. Needless to say, when the human body gets in a fight with a cobblestone street, the street wins. My shoulder specifically lost.

Night bikes
Even at night, bikes fly by at dizzying speeds!

Sorry, no mangled bike accident photos. You get practical information instead.

As i’m an American, I’ve learned to never take going to the doctor lightly, as you never REALLY know how much you’ll have to pay, even with good health insurance. I have insurance here in the Netherlands, but it’s something you never really want to test. Right?

(No Michael, that’s really stupid…they do healthcare correctly here!)

Boy on Bike
Maybe if I had bike skills like this, I wouldn't have got in an accident!

Of course, that is me being paranoid because of the system I grew up in. After four days of not being able to move my arm, I had grown worried enough to overcome my fears of the hidden costs of the health system (to the US citizens reading this, THERE ARE NO HIDDEN COSTS HERE!) and go to the doctor.

But where do I go?

I tried to find what we call a clinic in the US, but I couldn’t find anything offering similar walk-in services online. I asked my Dutch friend what I should do and he sent me to a huisarts who had open hours. This turned out to be the right course of action, BUT, this particular doctor wasn’t taking any new patients.

Next, I decided to just go to the emergency room. At this point I was actually a little worried I had been walking around with a broken shoulder for days, and just wanted to make sure it was ok. When I got to the hospital I was told that the emergency room should only be visited in the first 24 hours after an accident or in case of a dire illness etc. This makes sense, but once again is different than back home.

Turns out my only choice was to find a huisarts who would see me

Huisartsen
If you ever see a green sign like this, you know you're near a doctor

I googled huisartsen (adding -en makes huisarts plural. Enjoy your free Dutch lesson!) and saw there were a couple more in my neighborhood. I wandered into several and finally found one who was taking new patients and could see me the next day!

Turns out I was lucky and hadn’t broken anything, just most likely damaged the muscle or soft tissue, and I’m happy to say I can almost lift my arm over my head again, albeit a month later.

So what’s the moral of the story?

As soon as you move to the Netherlands register with a huisarts in your neighborhood. This way, if you do end up in an accident, or sick, you don’t have to go through a stressful couple days like I did and can just immediately schedule an appointment. Huisartsen also usually dedicate at least one or two times a week to walk in appointments. This explains why I didn’t find many clinics, like I would in the US.

To my fellow US citizens, if you get in an accident in the Netherlands, just go to the emergency room! It won’t break the bank. My doctors’ visit was only about 30usd PRE-insurance, which is 1/9th of what pre-insurance costs would have been back home. Plus insurance will cover my visit completely as it was related to an accident. What’s a co-pay again??

If you’ve read some of my earlier posts you’ll have seen that I’m a big fan of the bike culture here in the Netherlands. Now I can also say I’m a big fan of the medical system too!

Study in Holland Scrnsh
Make sure to check out all the great info on the Study in Holland website!

If anyone has any questions about how medical insurance works in the Netherlands, check out the great info on the Study in Holland webpage, or you can comment below and I’ll do my best to point you in the right direction!

Posted by Michael Anderson at Mar 12, 2017 11:40 PM
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