EXPLAINED: What you should know about online doctors’ appointments in France

EXPLAINED: What you should know about online doctors' appointments in France
Doctolib and other online medical platforms have flourished in France since the pandemic started. Photo by ERIC PIERMONT / AFP
As virtual doctors' appointments become increasingly popular in France, here's a step-by-step guide on how to book one - and what you need to know about getting the cost refunded.

What is it?

Télémédicine or téléconsultations refer to online doctors’ appointments, which means you meet virtually with a doctor via your computer, smartphone or tablet.

Virtual medical appointments have flourished in France since the beginning of the pandemic last spring, making online booking platforms such as Doctolib increasingly popular. Doctolib registered more than 200,000 appointments in one day on March 4th, a new record for the medical app.

Who can access online consultations?

When Covid-19 rates exploded last spring, French Health Minister Olivier Véran relaxed on the rules regulating online appointments to encourage more people to use them, to protect both patients and doctors from unnecessary contact.

Previously online consultations were limited to patients who had consulted their general practitioner (GP) in the last year. 

Because not all doctors offer this service, you don’t have to see your registered GP (medicin traitant). Although patients with a doctor who does offer this service are asked to see their regular GP. You are also urged to find the doctor closest to you, in case further follow-ups and consultations are needed.

How to book an appointment

There are several online medical platforms in France: Keldoc, Allodocteur, Docavenue, Consulib are some examples, though Doctolib is most widely used.

Doctolib encourages patients to opt for online consultations, and has made it easy to book online through their website or app, reminding patients that virtual appointments are reimbursed by French social security the same as face-to-face consultations.

Photo: Doctolib.fr

1.  Register

Before you can book an appointment you need to create an online account. Click HERE and scroll down to Nouveau sur Doctolib (New to Doctolib) and select s’inscrire (register).

2. Book

Once you have an account you need to first log into the website using your email and password. Then you can either search for your doctor, a medical establishment, a specific kind of treatment or other, or just simply type in your postcode or city.

The search field of the website looks like this:

Photo: Doctolib.fr

If for example you are looking for a doctor in Paris, type in “Paris” and the website will show you a map where you can select a doctor close to your home. On the left hand side, you will see a list of doctors and medical establishments and what time they have appointments available.

Helpfully, Doctolib also lists which languages each doctor speaks, so if necessary you can find an English-speaking medic.

Photo: Doctolib.fr

By scrolling down you will get more doctors to find an appointment that best fits your schedule.

Once you have found a time slot, click on it – the blue square that shows the actual hour, for example 15:00 in the picture above – or click prendre rendez-vous and then select the time you have chosen.

The website will then ask you to choisissez un motif (select your reason), so here you need to find the option that is most compatible with your reason for making an appointment. 

After that you just need to tick en vidéo to ensure that your consultation is online and not au cabinet (in person), as shown here:

Photo: Doctolib.fr

If you have already consulted the doctor, select oui, otherwise click non.

The website will then ask you to confirm that your registered doctor does not offer online consultations and that there is no other doctor closer to your address who does. Click j’accepte (I accept).

After that you will be asked whether you are booking an appointment for yourself or someone else, and then you will need to add some personal details before confirming the appointment, and voilà – you’re done.

READ ALSO: Healthcare in France: The essential language for a doctor’s appointment

Doctolib will send you both an email confirmation and reminders to ensure that you don’t forget your appointment.

How to have the actual appointment?

On the day of your téléconsultation you have to log into your Doctolib account on doctolib.fr about 15 minutes before the appointment. It’s important to log into the website a bit earlier in order to verify that your camera and microphone works correctly.

Click on the link on the website under mes rendez-vous (my appointments) and enter the virtual consultation. The website will ask you about access to your microphone and camera (click “accept” on all of these).

If for some reason it doesn’t work, your doctor will call you on your phone (you will have provided Doctolib with a phone number when registering).

How much does it cost?

Virtual doctors’ appointments are now reimbursed just like regular consultations in France.

In a normal consultation in France, you pay the doctor – either by cash or bank card – and the doctor then swipes your carte vitale, which allows the government and the mutuelle if you have one to reimburse the money straight into your bank account.

When using online consultations you generally register your bank card details and carte vitale when signing up, so the reimbursements should be automatic (if in doubt, ask your doctor).

Normally doctors are allowed to charge less for an online appointment than for an in-person one – between €12 and €20 compared to €25 to €30 – but during the coronavirus outbreak, Véran said that doctors will be able to charge the normal consultation fee for an online appointment. 

Vocab

Télémedicine – online medical consultations 

Téléconsultations – online doctor’s appointments

READ ALSO The essential vocab for healthcare in France


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