Health: Doctors in Germany to be allowed to grant sick leave via video

Health: Doctors in Germany to be allowed to grant sick leave via video
A general doctor holding a video meeting in Hartha, Saxony. Photo: DPA
In future, many patients will be able to avoid visiting a doctor's office if they want to take sick leave. A few requirements must be met first.

Doctors will be allowed to write a sick note via video for patients with statutory health insurance, or roughly 90 percent of people in Germany, decided Germany’s Federal Joint Committee (Gemeinsame Bundesausschuss) on Thursday.

An exact date at which the measure comes into effect has not yet been announced.

Yet there are a few requirements for remotely receiving a sick note (eine Krankschreibung) that will have to be fulfilled first.

The patient will need to “be known” to the practice, or have paid it a prior visit, said the committee. He or she must also have an illness that can be diagnosed over video, without a personal examination. 

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The patient will then be allowed to take sick leave for no more than seven days following the first consultation.

Other possibilities for remotely receiving a sick note – such as a phone call or online chat – are still not on the cards, though, said the committee. 

“The standard for determining an Arbeitsunfähigkeit [incapacity to work] continues to be an immediate personal examination by a doctor,” said committee member Monika Lelgemann.

“In individual cases, however, it should be possible to determine this via a video consultation.”

In addition, starting on January 1st, 2021, all sick notes will be digitised, so that doctors can transmit them electronically both to insurance companies and a person's employer.

READ ALSO: How Germany plans to ditch paper sick notes for digital ones

Health care in coronavirus times

The committee stressed that the new option was pushed forward independent of the coronavirus pandemic. Yet several remote options for patients have sprung up as a result of it. 

In order to reduce the risk of infection and to relieve practices in the coronavirus crisis, patients in Germany were able to call in sick by telephone from March onward without visiting a doctor. However, the special regulation expired on May 31st.

The acceptance of video consultation hours increased during the crisis. According to a survey published in July by the digital association Bitkom, 45 percent of Germans can now imagine “meeting” with a doctor doctor through video. In May of last year, the figure stood at 30 percent.

Acceptance of online consultations has also skyrocketed among doctors in Germany, over 50 percent of whom said they now offer patients the option to speak through video, according to a recent survey.

READ ALSO: 'More than half' of all doctors in Germany now offer online consultations


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