Transfer by the family doctor makes sense despite the omission of the practice fee
Since the beginning of the year, patients have no longer had to pay a doctor's practice fee of ten euros per quarter. This flat rate is no longer applicable when visiting a specialist, which is why the referral by the family doctor no longer makes sense from a financial point of view. However, patients should not waive referral from their family doctor, advises the Independent Patient Advice Service Germany (UPD).
According to the UPD, the referrals by the family doctor have their purpose. Because "if you have a referral to a specialist, your family doctor will have a better overview and can adjust the treatment accordingly," emphasized Rainer Sbrzesny from the UPD. In this way, "uncoordinated drugs and unnecessary multiple examinations can be avoided," the UPD announcement continued. With a few exceptions, a visit to a specialist - as well as before the abolition of the practice fee - is possible without a referral, but from a medical point of view, the experts advise a prior visit to the family doctor. In case of doubt, the patient can refer the patient to a suitable specialist.
No referral required for the visit to the specialist Until the end of last year, patients had to pay the practice fee of ten euros per quarter again for each visit to the specialist that they did without a referral from their family doctor. For this reason alone, a previous visit to a general practitioner and a corresponding referral made sense for the patients. Now, after the end of the practice fee, many patients have the question "whether they need a referral for the specialist," said Sbrzesny. Nothing has changed here since last year, the expert continues. Until now, patients have been able to see a specialist without referral from their family doctor. In this case, however, another ten euros practice fee was due. Although these costs are now gone, the referral by the family doctor offers clear advantages from a medical point of view.
Referral by the general practitioner makes sense from a medical point of view The general practitioners are generally well informed about the symptoms of their patients and can provide important information when selecting specialists. They also keep a better overview of the health of their patients if a referral is obtained before visiting the specialist. In addition, treatment can be tailored accordingly, and multiple examinations and inconsistencies in drug prescriptions could be avoided in this way, according to the UPD. In some exceptional cases, such as with specialty doctors or with participants in the general practitioner model, a visit to the specialist is not possible anyway without prior referral.
Specialist appointments can also be made without a referral. Some patients have a high level of suspicion about their family doctor because they suspect treatment errors or have the feeling that the family doctor will only refer them to specialists who have so-called catch premiums. The study by the umbrella association of statutory health insurers in May of this year, which found that catch premiums are not uncommon among doctors and that they also have considerable corruption potential, certainly did not contribute to building trust here. In such cases, however, patients have the opportunity to make an appointment with the desired specialist on their own initiative. In addition, in the event of such distrust of your family doctor, you are strongly advised to change your family doctor. (fp)
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