Long waiting times for a specialist appointment: More and more frustration in the country

Accessibility of doctors: gap between city and country
It has long been known that patients have to wait differently for a specialist appointment. Compared to private patients, those insured by law usually have to prepare for longer waiting times. If you live in the country, you also have to accept longer journeys.

Long waiting times and long distances
Reports of long waiting times at specialist appointments have been circulating for years. A waiting period of five weeks is not uncommon, as studies have shown. Private patients are generally faster. Health insurance patients have to wait an average of 23 days longer, experts in Bavaria found. People who live in the country have an additional disadvantage: They usually have much longer distances to see a specialist.

Gap between city and country
Because when it comes to the supply of specialist practices, there is still a gap between town and country. This is despite the fact that there have been more incentives to set up a branch in the area for a year.

According to a study commissioned by the statutory health insurance company Pronova-BKK, patients in cities with more than half a million inhabitants had an average of less than 20 minutes to visit a specialist last year, reports the news agency dpa.

In communities with less than 5,000 inhabitants, on the other hand, they needed ten minutes more. According to the information, the average journey time to the nearest clinic in big cities was almost half an hour and in the country almost three quarters of an hour.

Appointments within four weeks
In recent years, opportunities have been repeatedly sought to address the shortage of doctors in the country. For example, the statutory health insurance companies had spoken in favor of a temporary admission for doctors.

Since the beginning of this year, the statutory health insurance associations have now been obliged by the Supply Strengthening Act to set up so-called appointment service centers, at which health insurance patients should receive specialist appointments within four weeks. However, according to patient protectors, this appointment service is not properly implemented by health insurance physicians.

Appointment service agencies have so far done little
The current study "Health Care 2016" by Pronova-BKK shows that the establishment of the appointment service points has not changed anything so far. The health insurance company stated in a press release: "Nevertheless, the sick have not felt any improvement so far: 22 percent of Germans who had been treated in a specialist medical practice within the past year had to wait a month or more for their last appointment. This proportion has not shrunk compared to the past five years. "

“It is certainly possible to argue whether appointment service points are the optimal solution for those insured by law. After all, the facilities were able to help 10,000 people per month who urgently needed an appointment, ”said Lutz Kaiser, CEO of Pronova-BKK. But waiting times when making appointments are a general problem - not only for those for whom specialist treatment is "urgently" required.

Management of the defect
"Only better distributed surgeries can really solve the problem. Everything else is just a management of the defect, ”says Lutz Kaiser.

"Good medical care should not be a question of where you live in the future," said Health Minister Hermann Gröhe (CDU) years ago. “In rural areas in particular, greater efforts are required to maintain good care. Financial incentives are a building block, but it is also important to improve working conditions so that more doctors choose to become a country doctor. ”(Ad)

Author and source information

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