I’ve lived in Denmark for about one and a half years now, and during this time, I’ve made some observations about things I dislike (not to be repetitive, but COLD!) and of course also about things I like – the beaches, bakery goods, Christmas traditions, language, cuisine, and so much more. Today I’d like to share some thoughts and observations about the Danish health care system that, unfortunately, I’ve had more contact with than I would have hoped – although most of it was actually quite positive.
First of all, when you get officially registered as an “immigrant”, and get your CPR number (the central persons registry), you also choose your “egen læge” (own doctor, basically your primary physician or “Hausarzt”, in German). That struck me as quite odd, because I was shown a list of doctors who had practices closest to my address, and no further information (other than their age and gender, interestingly) and was then told to choose one. I had no idea if the doctors were competent or nice, so I had to base my choice purely on location. I did select a practice with multiple doctors, both male and female, so I’d at least have a chance to switch between them if I didn’t like the first one. This “egen læge” is then also named on your health insurance card.
Sundhedskort - health insurance card
To make an appointment, you call the practice, so that’s quite normal. Lots of doctors and practices have “akut tid”, which means that you can call early in the morning and they have a couple of hours set aside each day for emergency patients, e.g. when you just contracted the flu and need some medication asap. Many doctors (including mine) also have a website with a central booking system that lets you choose the doctor, shows availabilities for the desired date, and also lets you book your appointment right away. This is the public system, mind you, not some snobby private clinic! If you then go to the doctor and get medication prescribed, you don’t get a printed out prescription that you have to carry to the pharmacy (I have lost many of those in bottomless purses over the years!). In most cases, my doctors just ordered the medication via a central server, and then I just went to any pharmacy, identified myself with the health insurance card, and they could see what pills were prescribed to me and with which dosage etc. Easy, you say? It gets even easier! All this information is stored on my doctor’s online “self service” site, so whenever I need a refill of painkillers, I can simply log on to the system, see all medication that’s been prescribed so far, and click “renew” – then the practice will send me an email or text message confirmation of the renewal, and I can pick up the medication without any hassle. That’s what I call forward-thinking and efficient, especially if you’re on a longer-term medication therapy!
One time, I also needed to get a blood sample taken and analysed. In Germany, the people working with the doctors in their practices are a mix of nurses and secretaries – they do the scheduling and answer the phone, but they also do smaller nurse duties like taking blood or measuring blood pressure. Not in Denmark. Instead, my doctor ordered a blood test for me, again via the almighty server, and specified exactly what values the lab should test for. Then I had to go to one of the labs (there’s a whole business behind this called Københavns Laboratorier, with several locations to choose from). You pick the one closest to you and just show up there during opening hours. Then you draw a number (the Danes LOVE that number-drawing system, you find it virtually everywhere, it’s so orderly and fair!) and wait for one of the nurses to call you. The entire procedure takes about 2 minutes, and it would be quicker if only your stupid blood could flow out of your arm a little faster! I felt a little uneasy in that lab – it basically consisted of one large room full of randomly (un)arranged chairs, five or six cabins for the actual blood-taking (separated with curtains) and a counter for registration. Even though I arrived a couple of minutes before the afternoon opening time, there were already about 20 people in line ahead of me. “Great”, I thought, “I’ll be here the entire afternoon!” But in reality, I was out of there in about half an hour. Very efficient, but not very “customer friendly”… What was really nice, though, was that I got my results via email, with a note from the doctor saying that everything was fine, so I didn’t even have to come in again to get the results (of course, I could have made an appointment, if desired).
All in all, I think the level of efficiency and digitalization is quite impressive, forward-thinking and tailored to people’s needs. I can hardly remember any German doctor I’ve been to actually using a computer – making appointments online, getting information via email, unthinkable! I am fully aware that this perception is very subjective, and that I’m not discussing the Danish health care system as a whole in terms of effectiveness, costs, etc. This is merely my perception of the elements I’ve come in contact with, and I’ve been pretty impressed by them so far!