Missed doctors appointments throughout Germany are “quite a problem”, Andreas Gassen, the head National Association of Statutory Health Insurance Physicians (KBV), told DPA.
No-shows throughout the Bundesrepublik vary between five and almost 20 percent of all scheduled doctors’ visits, according to a KBV study of 1,000 doctor practices.
“There are always reasons why patients don't come,” Gassen said. Sometimes patients will purposely “hoard” several dates to ensure that they can make it to one, he added.
If appointments are booked in advance and a patient doesn’t show up, an especially large problem is created, he said – in particular, if, for example, an outpatient operation was planned, and staff and resources were allocated for that time slot.
A fee for no-shows?
The NAV-Virchow-Bund (Association of Physicians in Private Practice) is advocating cancellation fees for such cases – especially when a specific procedure is planned.
“[No shows] cause real economic damage to the practices,” said chairman Dirk Heinrich. “With the signal of such a fee,” doctors are ensuring the patients cancel their appointments in advance or make it on time, he added.
Some doctors' public practices already warn patients that they will have to pay a fee is they miss an appointment without cancelling it in advance. But because there is no set law in Germany on such fees, this varies from practice to practice.
“If your doctor actually charges you a fee for a missed appointment, he should clearly inform you of the cancellation fee when making the appointment,” writes Germany's consumer advice centre.
The association of statutory health insurances (GKV) rejects added costs for patients, however. In the agreements on physician reimbursements, extra fees for times of no-show patients are already taken into account, said GKV vice chairman Johann-Magnus von Stackelberg.
“Doctors who ask patients to pay a penalty fee will thus earn double,” said Johann-Magnus von Stackelberg, Vice-Chairman of the GKV-Spitzenverband (the GKV's umbrella organization).
'In a waiting room for eternity'
He added that doctors, too, need to give more thought about how to make it to their own appointments on time.
“Precisely because patients, in spite of an appointment, always feel like they are sitting in a waiting room for an eternity, doctors should first take a close look at themselves when it comes to adherence to appointments,” said Stackelberg.
The GKV stated in December that public patients have a shortage of times to chose from, with many practices closed in the early evenings, the weekends and part of the day on Wednesday and Friday.
About 85 percent of people in Germany rely on public health insurance.