Visiting a Doctor in Taiwan
Visiting a doctor in Taiwan is quite different to what we are used to at home. Before going in depth about the doctors in Taiwan, something needs to be said first. Taiwan has one of the best national healthcare systems I’ve experienced, especially coming from America.
For someone who has never had health insurance in the past, and thought a band-aid and Windex was a miracle cure, the health insurance in Taiwan was a blessing; however, I was more than confused about how it all worked.
How do I register for an appointment? where do I go? how do I pay? what kind of doctor do I see? do I go to a hospital or a neighborhood clinic? The first couple times at a clinic or hospital can be overwhelming, especially without the ability to speak Chinese or anyone to help; however, once accustomed to the processes it is, like most things in Taiwan, very convenient.
This article will help to shed some light on going to the doctor in Taiwan.
Getting Health Insurance
When you come to Taiwan to teach the government will provide health insurance for a minimal cost. Each month a set amount of money will be deducted from your salary to pay for the health insurance (I forget the exact price, but it’s pretty low for the services you can get). The insurance includes dental, as well.
You will also need to pay for a doctor’s visit and other treatment associated with your visit. Most regular visits will cost 150NT (~$4.50US) and can include a large range of service that go well past a regular check-up. I was recently at a dentist and needed to get some very minor surgery, but even that was included in the 150NT charge.
Even an X-Ray at the hospital only costs about 400NT (~$12US)! Those prices in the States are unheard of. All in all, the health insurance in Taiwan is worth it.
Hospital or Clinic
There are two main ways to visit a doctor. One is going to a larger hospital, of which there is no shortage of in Taipei (NTU Hospital, Wanfang Hospital, Cathay General Hospital, Mackay Memorial Hospital, the list goes on…).
The next option is the smaller and more specialized clinics. These are also ubiquitous throughout Taiwan. These clinics will often focus on one or more specific types of medicine e.g. family medicine, pediatrics, skin, etc. The clinics are also divided between Western medicine and Eastern medicine (acupuncture, heat cups, etc.).
Going to the clinics will likely be less overwhelming than going to a large hospital right off the bat. Although hospitals will offer a large range of medical services, they are harder to navigate, particularly without Chinese; however, hospitals will have English signs accompanying the Chinese and most doctors will speak fluent English.
Also, BE PREPARED TO WAIT. Like a while. If you go to a hospital the wait to see a doctor can be excruciatingly long.
Clinics normally have much shorter wait times at approximately 30 minutes and can be acessed via walk-in appointments.
Registering for an Appointment
People who visit a clinic or hospital for the first time need to register with that specific places system. Each new hospital or clinic needs to have your medical information first before moving forward with the process.
This is actually quite straightforward. Each hospital will have a counter specifically for registering with the system. The sign says “掛號 (gua hao)” which literally means “to register with a hospital.” Smaller clinics will have a receptionist that takes care of that registration and other clerical needs, i.e. appointments, issuing prescriptions, etc.
Once you’re registered you can see the doctor. If you’re at a hospital, the next step is to figure out which department you need.
Depending on what you need to have checked, you will need to visit a different department of the hospital. If the clerk who does your registration speaks English, or if you speak Chinese, they will be able to recommend which department suits your medical needs.
Once you arrive at your necessary department there will likely be another counter where you need to take a number in order to see the doctor. Often, this initial visit will just be to check your issues, evaluate your condition, familiarize the doctor with your problems, and to schedule another appointment at a later date.
Once you are registered with a hospital or clinic, your information will always be in their system and, thus, there will be no need to register with that medical institution again.
You can even schedule an appointment online with most big hospitals. If you register online, the system will provide you with an appointment number which you use to determine the order of appointments.
The online system will even provide live, up-to-date notifications of the appointment numbers so you can time when you need to go into the hospital. Just as with most things in Taiwan, very convenient.
Have you been to the doctors in Taiwan? What was your experience like? Let us know in the comments below.