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Do doctors in Germany have too little time for their patients?

Sarah Magill
Sarah Magill - [email protected]
Do doctors in Germany have too little time for their patients?
A patient undergoes a consultation with his doctor. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/AbbVie Deutschland GmbH & Co. KG | AbbVie Deutschland GmbH & Co. KG

The average doctor’s appointment in Germany lasts only 7.6 minutes, according to a recent study by Cambridge University.

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It seems that the feeling of being rushed in and out of a doctor’s consultation in Germany is not uncommon.

According to a survey conducted by Infratest dimap on behalf of ARD, millions of Germans are dissatisfied with the limited time they have with their doctors. More than a fifth of the population believes that their doctor did not adequately address their concerns, while among patients under the age of 34, this figure rises to one in three.

This dissatisfaction may be down to the fact that, in Germany, each patient is allocated an average of only 7.6 minutes - significantly less than in other European countries - according to a recent study by Cambridge University. 

READ ALSO: 7 things to know about visiting a doctor in Germany

One of the main factors contributing to this limited time is the bureaucracy involved. The National Association of Statutory Health Insurance Physicians' bureaucracy index for 2020 revealed that bureaucracy consumed 61 working days per year and per practice, equivalent to 24 percent of working time based on 251 working days.

Ferdinand Gerlach, former chairman of the Expert Panel on Health, has been analysing this issue for years and told Tagesschau that Germans visit doctors too frequently and often for inappropriate reasons. The billing system, which incentivises scheduling patients every quarter and allows them to choose any doctor contributes to this problem, he said, because as a result, patients often end up seeing the wrong specialists and receiving unnecessary or inadequate treatment.

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Federal Health Minister Karl Lauterbach has emphasised the importance of giving adequate time to patients, saying that "talking medicine" is not a luxury but rather a necessity for better healthcare.

Stefan Graafen, a general practitioner in Flörsheim, Hesse, told Tagesschau that he sometimes sees more than 50 patients a day and that he wishes he could dedicate more time to his patients. 

But this is made difficult by the additional two hours of bureaucracy he has to handle every day after consultation hours.

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