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German healthcare reforms promise faster and better emergency care

Physician organizations and nursing staff have long voiced concerns about overcrowded emergency rooms. Now, a significant development is underway in the healthcare landscape in Germany, as the Federal Ministry of Health, under the leadership of Karl Lauterbach (SPD), is preparing a comprehensive reform of emergency medical care.

Emergency care reforms – What it means for the emergency number

The reform encompasses various aspects, including changes to emergency calls. The plan involves establishing a network between emergency centers 112 and the Association of Doctors of the State Health Insurance System 116117. This aims to ensure that individuals calling either of the two numbers receive prompt and appropriate support. For mild symptoms, a call to 112 might result in a visit to a doctor’s office. However, in cases of emergencies, dispatching an ambulance via 116117 is also part of the envisioned improvements.
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Lauterbach reforms emergency care – Comprehensive emergency centers are planned

The ministry’s key points reveal plans for Integrated Emergency Centers (INZ) at hospitals. The proposal aims to establish an emergency center and ambulatory emergency service in close proximity for every 400,000 inhabitants. This setup envisions a ‘one-stop shop‘ approach, where an initial assessment of the patient’s situation can be efficiently conducted.

In an emergency , patients should be treated where they can receive the fastest and best care . It doesn’t always have to be the hospital. In many cases, immediate emergency care makes a lot more sense,” Lauterbach said. Emergency centers for children and youth are also planned.

The Association of Doctors of the State Health Insurance System deems approximately 730 integrated emergency centers necessary in Germany, according to a model they developed. Envisioning more than just immediate medications, these centers aim to offer patients appointments for further treatment. In the future, individuals facing serious issues would be directed to an emergency center, where the subsequent course of action would be determined.
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Telehealth care aims to provide patients with round-the-clock access to medical services
Telehealth care aims to provide patients with round-the-clock access to medical services

Patients will avoid unnecessary travel

Significant changes are anticipated in the realm of remote medicine. Since the beginning of the year, electronic prescriptions, issued digitally in a doctor’s office, have been in existence. These prescriptions can now also be obtained through telephone or video consultations if a physical visit is deemed unnecessary by the medical professionals. The same flexibility applies to electronic medical certificates.

The shift towards telehealth care aims to provide patients with round-the-clock access to medical services without necessitating a physical visit. This approach not only saves patients from unnecessary travel but also mitigates long wait times in emergency rooms and doctor’s offices, as explained by Lauterbach. In the future, medical certificates are expected to be issued during home visits and at emergency centers.
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However, patients will need to exercise patience, as the planned reform is set to be implemented from the beginning of 2025, according to information from HNA.