Patients wait at the doctor for 27 minutes

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On average, health insurance patients have to wait 27 minutes in waiting rooms for their treatment

If you have a specialist appointment with an ophthalmologist, ENT specialist or cardiologist, you usually have to wait a long time in the waiting room. This was the result of a survey of company health insurance companies in Germany. Private patients are hardly given any advantage when it comes to waiting times, here the waiting time was just over six minutes less. Some companies have now specialized in the waiting area in the doctor's office and offer TV programs or magazines.

Most waiting rooms are barely comfortable or cozy. Most doctors offer magazines, some relaxation music or others a television to bridge the time in the waiting room. For those who feel sick, waiting can subjectively last forever. But what can shorten the waiting time and how big is the risk of getting infected in the doctor's waiting room during this time?

According to a study by the German Company Health Insurance Fund (BKK), insured persons with statutory health insurance wait an average of 27 minutes (2008: 28 minutes) for treatment from a doctor. Private patients are given more benefits than patients in the cash register not only when appointing doctors, but also when they wait, as the survey showed. Private insured people wait an average of six minutes less, which is an average of 21 minutes.

Patients have to wait almost half an hour at the family doctor. A total of 6,000 health insured Germans aged 14 and over were interviewed for the BKK study. The working title of the survey was "Doctor's visit and waiting times". Above all, many people experience fears at the dentist. The good news is that patients in the health insurance companies only have to wait a good 13 minutes before the actual treatment begins. The waiting times at the gynecologist are also tolerable, with 23 minutes women have to wait relatively short at the gynecologist. Mothers and fathers have to bring a little more time to the pediatrician. Here it was 29 minutes until the doctor first saw him. Less than half an hour, which can mostly be bridged for children with toys in the waiting room. The general practitioner is currently waiting for 27 minutes (2008: 30 minutes). Cash register patients have to wait the longest at the ear, nose and throat doctor or the orthopedic surgeon. According to the survey, patients have to wait a good 37 minutes here.

However, many doctors come up with something to make the time in the waiting area as pleasant as possible for the patient. A common service are magazines of all kinds and interests. If you are lucky, you can read a current "Spiegel" or the latest gossip news in the "Bunten". Specialists in pediatrics usually also have interesting advice for parents, such as the pediatrician Ms. Dr. Clerk in Hanover. "While my children are trying out provided toys, I can take a look at the latest parenting guides," reports Susanne Wegener, mother of two children. "Time flies by then".

Flat screen TVs in German practices The latest trend is flat screen TVs in waiting areas. More and more doctors are using this adequate remedy. Rightly so, because the competition in the cities is fierce, even doctors don't want to lose their "customers" through "boredom in the waiting room". One company has meanwhile specialized in this service and has already installed 5,100 of these televisions in German medical practices. Instead of brittle entertainment, short films on health care, local weather, therapeutic treatment methods, animal films or travel documentaries are shown. Cartoons are also shown for the children. Messages are presented to the waiting audience once an hour. In order to finance the service, however, short advertising films are also shown. Such offers are of great interest for the advertising environment, since the target group can be precisely defined. The influence of the pharmaceutical industry, which is sure to book many such clips, remains questionable. So that patients are not disturbed too much, there is no sound. After all, not all patients want to stare at the screen. If you wait longer than an hour, you have to watch the same program again or not. According to a study by the GfK, almost 80 percent of the patients rated the TV offer as "very good" or "good". 70 percent said they would like more outpatient practices to offer such a TV service.

No increased risk of infection in doctor's surgeries Many patients wonder whether they can become infected in the waiting room of other patients. As Winfried Kern of the German Society for Infectious Diseases says, this is theoretically possible, but rather unlikely. "Unless you are coughed up directly," as the expert said. Such a danger also exists in all other public areas of everyday life. Wherever people come together, you may come into contact with infectious diseases. But the day has 24 hours, every hour there is a risk of becoming infected. But how much time "do you spend in a waiting room?" Asks Dr. Kern versus “Welt Online”.

In practice, private patients have to factor in fewer waiting times, but according to the BKK study, over 85 percent of Germans have statutory health insurance. Only eight percent are fully insured with a private health insurance. Accordingly, the unequal treatment is hardly noticeable. It is gratifying that doctors make no distinction between acute cases. If you suffer from high fever or severe symptoms of illness, you will usually get an appointment on the same day and do not have to wait long. According to the survey, two thirds of the respondents were treated on the same day.

Long appointment waiting times for medical specialists However, insured patients have to be patient much longer than privately insured people. On average, insured persons waited 20 days for an appointment. Private patients received an average doctor's appointment six days earlier. On average, health insurance companies had to wait eight days for treatment by a general practitioner. If you wanted to see an ophthalmologist, you had to wait over a month, namely 37 days. Gynecologists currently have to wait 27 days for female patients and orthopedists for a good 29 days. If you are not an acute case, you have to wait a good 25 days for a dentist appointment. 15 percent of the survey participants had no appointment at all and therefore had to continue looking for another doctor. (sb)

Read on:
Health insurance patients are clearly disadvantaged
Doctor's appointments: health insurance patients are disadvantaged

Image: Rainer Sturm /

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