Patient rights – missed target? • general practitioner-online

Target missed?

For 2 years, the Patients’ Rights Act (PatRG) has been in force. At first it had been vehemently rejected by the medical profession, because it feared even more bureaucracy. But since the introduction it has become rather quiet about the law. Since it is time to ask if and how far the new patient rights have arrived at all in the medical reality. It certainly did not work out that way, as you can see in the Bertelsmann Foundation’s Health Monitor.

No one likes to be naughty that he does not know something well, which he should know well. Doctors are no exception. And so, 80% of doctors interviewed for the health monitor say they have good to very good knowledge of the rights of their patients. The clinicians are particularly sure about their detailed knowledge, which is probably due to the fact that in the hospitals to further training events were carried out. This self-confidence is not quite as pronounced among doctors in private practice. They have to take care of their training mainly through specialist literature and quality circles.

Ignorance still widespread

However, deeper re-drilling shows that the specific provisions of the 2013 Act have not fully penetrated the medical profession. For example, only 20% of physicians who consider themselves experts in patient rights believe that they know most of the provisions of the law. At least 48% can at least roughly orient themselves over some determinations. But at least a third of doctors do not know the law at all, or at best only hearsay.

What are patients asking for??

Asked if they had been directly addressed by patients for patient rights, 38% of respondents said yes. For the most part, these questions were related to 2 topics: access to medical records (77%) and education about treatment alternatives (40%).

Useful or superfluous?

Have the rights of the patient actually been strengthened by the law? Three quarters of the doctors surveyed think so. At the same time, however, there is a majority opinion that the law did not entail additional legal certainty for physicians. All in all, the survey also makes it clear that hospital doctors find the law rather useful, but that private practitioners in the surgeries consider it more or less superfluous. Only a small minority judges the law as actually harmful.

Even more paperwork?

One of the biggest fears before the entry into force of the patients’ rights law was that it could lead to even more bureaucracy. Have these fears come true? In fact, about two-thirds of the doctors surveyed say that the time required for documentation has risen considerably.

No higher transparency

However, this can not be deduced from a direct connection with the Patients’ Rights Act, because the requirements for For example, in the last two years more and less information has been available on access to hospital records (Table 1), as the survey also shows. The higher temporal burden of about 90% presumably more reflects a general feeling of rejection by physicians towards excessive bureaucracy. However, it is not surprising that more than half of those polled say that the law has (still) not achieved the goal of greater transparency and legal certainty.

Family doctors especially open-minded?

Although the knowledge of patients ‘rights should be better for the surgeons, orthopedists and anesthesiologists in the clinics than in the specialist areas of primary care, the physicians surveyed consider GPs to be particularly open to patients’ rights (Fig. 1). That could be an incentive.

Published in: The GP, 2015; 37 (15) pages 34-37

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Christina Cherry
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