National Clinical Atlas: What does this bring to patients?

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Written By Kampretz Bianca

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Which clinic is best for colon cancer treatment? Is there a specialized doctor on site and how often have complications occurred at the clinic? Questions that concern patients and their families. There are currently around 1,700 hospitals across Germany – but the quality varies enormously. “The vast majority of patients have no idea which clinic is suitable for their illness,” says Federal Minister for Health Karl Lauterbach (SPD).

Federal Hospital Atlas now online with delay

He wants to change that: to this end, work was carried out for months on the so-called Atlas of Federal Hospitals. The federal states resisted and convened the mediation committee through the Federal Council. However, Atlas is now being released online late. The portal offers answers to patients, comparing clinics – across the country, in the state or in the region itself. 13 thousand clinical conditions were evaluated for the 1,700 hospitals.

However, not all data can be viewed immediately; the portal fills gradually. Now the first phase begins: patients can see how often certain procedures are performed, whether the clinic is certified and how many nursing professionals there are in the clinic. The next step should be to check: How often do complications occur?

Clinical atlas put to the test: Bavaria as an example

If you test the atlas, it shows the example of “colon cancer”: there are 197 hospitals across Bavaria that operate on colon cancer. When comparing the first ten clinics listed according to treatment cases, it appears that the Neuperlach clinic in Munich performs the highest number of operations with 1,522, and the nursing staff ratio (number of patients per nurse taking into account the severity of cases) is in the intermediate range. The clinic is certified by the German Cancer Society.

Lauterbach emphasizes: What is new and unique about the new online portal is the ability to quickly compare up to ten hospitals side by side – providing a guide through the “hospital jungle.” The SPD politician wants to eliminate criticism of his project.

Different online portals – what’s the difference?

Because: There are already several portals on the Internet – including those of health insurers such as AOK (link is external) or TK (link is external). They already provide information about clinics, their quality and services. This also applies to the clinical directory of the German Hospital Society (external link). CEO Gerald Gaß, who highlights that the register has existed for more than 20 years, accuses the minister of “dual structures” with his new portal: “This is political activism at the expense of the taxpayer”. Lauterbach, on the other hand, emphasizes: Other portals are based on “self-disclosure, which is not acceptable”.

The minister rejects another point of criticism: bureaucracy. Bavarian Health Minister Judith Gerlach (CSU) criticizes: The atlas leads to “a significant additional bureaucratic effort for hospitals”. Lauterbach Accountants: This is routine data “that we are already collecting, but unfortunately we never use”.

Why smaller clinics are concerned

But concerns also come from smaller clinics: they fear that they will no longer be attractive to patients compared to larger hospitals. The transparency provided by the Federal Hospital Atlas will make “patients more selective about their procedure,” said Lauterbach. But he also thinks that large clinics are not always automatically the winners, as there are small clinics that are “very specialized”.

This is the main objective of the Minister of Health: the specialization of hospitals. He relates the clinical atlas to the hospital reform recently approved by the cabinet. Among other things, the SPD politician wants to improve the quality of treatment.

Briefly: Clinics are classified into tiers – not all clinics will offer everything in the future. The levels should be visible to patients in the clinical atlas in the autumn, as Lauterbach says. This makes it transparent which and how many specialized areas – for example, heart surgery or emergency room – the clinic has. Lauterbach, at least, is firmly convinced that all these measures would lead to better patient care.

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