Which IGeL services really make sense

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New web portal evaluates individual health services

The statutory health insurance companies have been criticizing the many additional services offered by general practitioners and specialists for years. There is hardly any additional health care that actually brings benefits, according to the criticism that has been voiced many times. In order to provide an overview of individual health services (IGeL), the health insurance companies have set up a new web portal. Doctors and experts will evaluate the range of services and rate them according to "harm and benefit".

One in four already used additional services from a doctor
Doctors increasingly ask their patients whether they want to use a so-called hedgehog offer. Instead of reimbursement, patients have to pay for the diagnostic or therapeutic services offered out of their own pocket. According to a study by the scientific institute of the general local health insurance (Wido), every fourth patient has already used such services. In 2001 the share was around nine percent. Today it has already risen to 28.3 percent. It is disputed whether the health services that are not listed in the statutory health insurance benefits catalog actually bring medical benefits. An internet portal is now supposed to help you find your way through the jungle of offers. Main statement: "Which individual health services are understandable and sensible and which are not." Business is booming: Insured persons who spend around 1.5 billion euros spend on individual health services (IGeL) each year - and the trend is rising.

Unsettled patients frequently make inquiries to health insurance companies
"Patients who are unsure whether they want to take advantage of these services or not come back to us again and again," says Frank Göckeler of the IKK Classic guild health insurer. There are “some IGEL services that you can think about, such as travel vaccinations before you go on vacation.” However, many offers are “very controversial” from a scientific and medical point of view, as the expert emphasizes. Patients should therefore be skeptical, because if services are medically necessary, they are "generally covered by the statutory health insurance."

Board member Gernot Kiefer of the Federal Association of Statutory Health Insurance Funds (GKV) criticized the increasing number of offers. In many cases, the doctors are concerned with the profit and not with the medical help. In his view, the majority of the health services offered are "useless and superfluous".

Ophthalmologists and gynecologists most often offer their additional services. According to the AOK, about six to seven times more often than other specialists. "Most patients are unsettled and do not want to upset their doctor," criticize consumer advocates. The health insurance companies therefore require a 24-hour consent period before a contract is signed. In the meantime, patients could inform themselves independently and make their decisions in peace. Those who are seriously ill are often very willing to pay a lot of money for further treatments. "In many cases this is also a business with fear".

IGEL-Monitor offers analyzes of benefits and harm
Help is now to be provided by an independent portal of the health insurance companies. Different offers are compared and evaluated on the “www.igel-monitor” page. For the analysis, doctors and health experts research together in medical databases. The results are compiled on a scientific basis and then systematically evaluated. So that the patient can see exactly how useful the hedgehog performance is, benefits and changes or side effects are compared. The end result is then understandable and understandable for all insured persons. With all criticism: "The medical information is the focus of the offers. These will coincide with seriously justified recommendations from doctors, ”says Göckeler.

Naturopathy evaluation quite positive
However, hardly any additional health benefits are listed on the portal. "Another hedgehog service is to be added every month," emphasizes Peter Pick, managing director of the patient portal. Most of the offers should be evaluated and listed in as little as two years. It is questionable whether this will take place without conflict. After all, the services include not only unnecessary diagnostics, but also means of naturopathy. While acupuncture from traditional Chinese medicine for migraine prophylaxis was rated as “tending to be positive”, Bach flower therapy is described as “unclear”. Autologous blood therapy for tendon irritation is even viewed as “tending to be negative”. (sb)

Also read:
IGeL services at the doctor are often unnecessary
Health insurance companies want to restrict additional services
Doctors are selling more and more additional services
Doctors as sellers of additional services
Doctor's appointments: health insurance patients are disadvantaged
Hardly any useful additional services at the doctor

Image: Andrea Damm / pixelio.de

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