‘More than half’ of all doctors in Germany now offer online consultations

'More than half' of all doctors in Germany now offer online consultations
A general doctor holding a video meeting in Hartha, Saxony. Photo: DPA
Video meetings with doctors were not very popular in the past in Germany. But the corona crisis has changed that.

At the end of 2017, only 1.8 percent of licensed doctors in Germany offered a video consultation option with patients. And nearly 60 percent of the practitioners surveyed were generally opposed to this form of doctor-patient interaction, reported Spiegel Online. 

Yet according to a new online follow-up survey of 2,240 doctors and psychotherapists, more than 52 percent stated that they now offer video consultation hours in their practice, and another 10 percent plan to do so soon. 

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The survey was carried out by the Mannheim Institute for Public Health at the University of Heidelberg, the Health Foundation (Stiftung Gesundheit) and the Health Innovation Hub of the Federal Health Ministry.

Around 94 percent of the recently surveyed doctors and therapists stated that they had only been holding online consultations since this year – a clear indication this has been occurring due to the impact of the coronavirus crisis.

Almost 90 percent of those surveyed said that the Covid-19 pandemic had had an impact on the use of video consultation hours in their practice. Patients were also inquiring about this form of consultation more often, said the surveyed doctors.

Since the start of the coronavirus, more medical appointment booking websites such as Doctolib have given patients the option to request either an in-person or online appointment – with some doctors exclusively offering remote services.

READ ALSO: Everything you need to know about making a doctor's appointment in Germany

Among the general practitioners, 35 percent of those surveyed now offer video consultation hours, but half of the practitioners in general medical care are also opposed to offering online consultation hours due to what they see as legal or logistical barriers.

Psychotherapists are the most common group to offer their services remotely – 86.1 percent offer online meetings or plan to do in the near future. 

Regional and demographic differences

However, 60 percent of specialists from other disciplines only offer in-person services. Barely 28 percent use video consulting hours, and another 12.6 percent said want to introduce them soon. 

The lowest rate of online users is among doctors who also carry out operations: almost two-thirds of them do not use video consultation hours and, according to the survey, do not intend to do so.

READ ALSO: Patients in Germany to be given speedier doctor's appointments

Younger doctors and therapists under 40 are particularly open to this form of consultation, with 80 percent of the age group stating they already speak with patients through online video.

If the practitioner is located in a city, there is a greater chance that he or she will offer a telephone or online consultation than if the practice is located in a rural area.

Although many practitioners expect the proportion of video consultations to decrease significantly after the pandemic, they also think it will remain at a significantly higher level than before the corona crisis. 

A full 43.5 percent of those surveyed do not consider video consultations to be a good form of doctor-patient interaction, while 24 percent fear the organisational and legal effort involved.

Online barriers lifted

Only since April 2017 have doctors in Germany been allowed to charge for video consultations with patients; exactly two years later, restrictions were lifted that had allowed only certain clinical pictures or follow-ups to be treated remotely.

Psychotherapists have also been allowed to charge for video consultations since April 2019.

In October 2019, an agreement was reached to allow doctors to treat patients in video consultation hours even if they had not visited the practice previously. Previously the doctor and patient had to have their first meeting in person.

Vocabulary

Video consultation hours – (die) Videosprechstunden

Specialists (doctors) – (die) Fachärzten

To bill/invoice – abrechnen 

in the near future/within a narrow time frame – zeitnah

We're aiming to help our readers improve their German by translating vocabulary from some of our news stories. Did you find this article useful? Let us know.


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