If you are in Vietnam for a longer period of time then it is inevitable that at some stage then you will not feel well and have to visit the clinic. This will be a very different experience to your visits in the West so it is best to be prepared so that you are not shocked by the differences and the way things are done. This guide today will let you know what to prepare and what to do when visiting a health clinic in Vietnam.
Which clinic to visit?
If you have health insurance then you will have been provided with a list of clinics to visit. This is because there are two types of payment – one will be with the clinics that are affiliated with your health insurance and thus you need to only pay the base amount (this varies depending on your health care provider and typically is about 600,000 VND to 800,000 VND per visit)
The other clinics you need to pay upfront and get all of the receipts and then fill in forms and submit these at a later date. It is essential to make sure that all of the forms from the clinic are fully stamped, dated, and signed and that you get the red receipt (which is the formal receipt)
Both processes are fine – it is more important to find a clinic that you feel suits and then the payment section can be sorted out later.
What to take with you when visiting a health clinic in Vietnam
It is essential for you to take your passport with you to the clinic – especially if you are using your health insurance card. This is so that they can verify that you are the person on the card – and that it is not someone else’s card that you have borrowed.
Some places will accept a scanned picture on your phone of your passport and some places will even accept some other form of identification e.g., driving licence. However, it is at all possible it is better to take your passport to be on the safe side.
What happens when you get there?
When visiting a health clinic in Vietnam, you will first need to go to the reception. Although some very popular clinics have appointment times, in general, most people simply don’t feel well and then go along to the clinic.
It is advised that you go early since many clinics have long (two hours or more) lunchtimes so you may find that you have to wait for results over the long lunchtime if you start the day too late.
At the reception
You will need to fill in a basic form and write a line or two of what your symptoms are. This will enable the receptionist to determine which of the doctors you need to see.
You will then be directed off to your first room. This will be the blood pressure and temperature room – regarding of what is wrong with you, this is the standard room that everyone goes to first. If it is your first visit then you may also have your height and weight measured.
See the doctors
After your blood pressure / temperature then you will go to another room to see the doctor. You will find that the doctors may not be able to speak much English when visiting a health clinic in Vietnam (even in the big cities such as Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh).
As a result, remember to speak slowly and clearly. If there is confusion then use Google translate when visiting a health clinic in Vietnam!
Unlike in the West, where this visit to the general doctor is usually the start and finish of your visit, this is simply a quick visit and the doctor will send you off for a million and one tests.
Medical tests in Vietnam
It is essential to note that unlike the West where tests are a rare thing, they are pretty common when visiting a health clinic in Vietnam. It is very rare to go to see the doctor and not at least to have a blood test – so don’t panic and imagine that there is something seriously wrong with you when you suddenly realise that you are having a multitude of tests!
Once you have been in Vietnam for a while and get used to having tests, then you will become more aware of which ones are really needed and which are simply additional ways to make money for the clinic. The more honest clinics will only order things that you really need – however there are many that will prescribe more than are needed simply as a money-making exercise!
As a result, always look at the tests that are prescribed whilst you are talking to the doctor to make sure that you agree with them.
The most basic test will be the blood test – this will be done on the premises (most likely in the room that you initially went for your blood pressure) It will be impossible to go to the clinic and not have your blood tested!
If you have any throat problem – e.g., a sore throat and a cough – then you will need to go and see the ear, throat, and nose specialist department. Do not be alarmed that you will be examined with a machine that has a camera and pictures are taken of inside your ear / throat etc. This is perfectly normal in Vietnam and does not mean that you have some serious illness!
Chest x-rays are also quite a common procedure – so do not be surprised and overly concerned if you need an x-ray if you go to the doctors with a cough!
If you have a stomach problem, then in addition to urine and stool tests, then it is highly likely that you will have an ultrasound to check your insides! Do not worry if you are asked to have an ultrasound – like the other tests this is a normal procedure in Vietnam and does not indicate that there is anything seriously wrong with you!
You will be prescribed a huge amount of medication – however minor your ailment!
After the million and one tests, then you will need to go back and see the original doctor to get the results. Unlike the West where the result of tests can take days if not weeks, the results will be available in a very short time and usually within an hour you will have all results.
You then go back and visit the doctor and get the results. Make sure that you are clear with what you have whilst you are seeing the doctor (using google translate if needed) It is at this stage that you need to ask for sick leave if you feel that you need it. Doctors in Vietnam are usually very generous with allocated sick leave, so you will probably get a minimum of three days for most common ailments. You will need the sick leave for your work, so do be sure to ask for this paper.
You will inevitably be given a very long list of medications to take when visiting a health clinic in Vietnam. Vietnamese doctors love to give an overload of tablets – with these usually being a combination of medicated and homeopathic tablets. Again, do not worry about the extremely large bag of medications that you have been prescribed. It does not mean that you are seriously ill – simply that there are both tablets for general health and stomach protection etc as well as the actual medication for your condition.
Note that if you have medical insurance, then you may need to wait for about twenty minutes whilst the clinic contacts the insurance company to see if you are eligible for the medication costs. This is perfectly normal and does not indicate that your insurance will not work!!
All in all…
Visiting a health clinic in Vietnam, or any other countries is stressful, as you don’t feel well and thus find it harder to cope with things. As a result, when visiting a clinic in Vietnam, just remember to stay calm and not imagine all kinds of sickness and get frustrated with things – instead, simply accept that things are different and try as much as possible to simply go with the flow!!