Sweden is well-known for its excellent social health care system and its high-standard medical service. How to make use of the medical service when you need it? This blog talks about one most common situation that every one might face: to book an appointment with doctor — it focuses on technical details and “tricks”!
Step 1: To find a Health Center (Swedish: Vårdcentral)
The websites www.1177.se provides information of all health centers in Sweden. You may specify the type “Vårdcentral” under “Sök Mottagning” and the location (example: T-Centralen, 111 20 Stockholm) to look for any health center that is the closest to you.
In general, a health center may provide 3 kinds of bookings:
- Appointment with doctor (Swedish: planerat besök): when you have discrete symptoms but by no means acute
- Acute appointment with doctor (Swedish: kort akutbesök): when you have diseases that require immediate treatment, such as bleeding, serve respiratory tract infections etc
- Appointment with nurse: vaccination, blood test etc
Step 2: To call the Health Center
In theory, upon registration at www.1177.se you will be able to book an appointment through their website. However, the most convenient way remains to be making a phone call directly to the health center that you found. Why? Because it often shows “fully booked” in the calendar on the website even if there is vacancy.
To be honest, making a phone call to the health center might be the most challenging part in the whole journey. Firstly, you may only call on weekdays during working hours; secondly, you have to understand the command from a Swedish-speaking, automated recording system, and type the response accordingly. A typical conversation would be:
1) You are greeted and asked if you are going to book a time –> Press “1” to confirm
2) You are asked to input your personnummer –> Input number –> Press “1” to confirm
3) You are told that they will get back to you at a specific time later (mostly within half an hour) –> Press “1” to confirm the time
Step 3: To book a time
After making the first phone call, you are sitting at home and waiting for someone (usually a nurse) to call you. Kind of nervous. How should you describe your symptoms so that you can get the appropriate treatment at the appropriate time?
Long waiting time for an appointment is a common issue shared by countries in which social health care system is adopted, with Sweden being no exception. There are different factors that govern the waiting time:
- Severity of disease is certainly the most critical factor. Under normal circumstances, you would be asked if the current symptoms interfere with your daily life and work. Depending on your answer, the waiting time could range from hours (e.g. acute infection, bleeding, fever) to more than a month (very mild symptoms or non-symptomatic)
- The location of the Health Center. It is conceivable that in a dense residential area, it would be difficult to have an appointment immediately due to very high local demand. Therefore, if you live in Central Stockholm like me, it might be a good idea to choose another Health Center in the suburb if you want to consult a doctor as soon as possible.
- The time when you phone. Although it sounds weird, if you phone early enough at 8 AM, there is chance to get an appointment in the same day, in case someone cancelled their booking.
By now, all is technically done with your booking! But, don’t forget to:
1. Arrive on time
2. If you wish to cancel to change your booking, do it 24 hours in advance
3. Bring your card or cash for payment (100 – 300 Kr for an appointment)
Below are some links you may find informative:
1. A well-rounded blog from another KTH blogger Abhineet about the health care system in Sweden, writing especially for international students: https://www.kth.se/blogs/abhineet/2016/10/healthcare/
2. A comprehensive guide to the Swedish health care system (in English): http://www.1177.se/Stockholm/Other-languages/Engelska/