Privacy & Transparency: How to gain ownership of your health records
Getting a copy of your German medical records might be something you want to think about, not only for peace of mind around privacy concerns, but also should you ever choose to switch health insurance provider. Marja Link-Lundehn from KLforExpats explains how it’s done - and why it’s so important.
There is so much to consider when it comes to your health insurance in Germany. One thing that can be all too easily overlooked is privacy. Given the sensitive nature of your personal health information, it’s imperative that you know what information is being noted, archived and shared between your doctor and your health insurance company.
For instance, do you know what your doctor’s visits actually cost? Or do you know the details of the medical analysis your doctor has written in their file, but not actually communicated to you personally?
Well you’re certainly not alone. Unlike privately-insured patients who receive an invoice after each doctor’s appointment, dental treatment or hospital visit, many patients with statutory health insurance never even see their appointment bill because it gets settled directly between their health insurance company and the doctor. This means that there’s little transparency.
The magic term is “Patientenquittung”
This is where the Patientenquittung (patient receipt) comes in. Essentially, it’s a very handy document that lists all the services you have received from your doctor, briefly and clearly. This gives you a structured overview of all the costs incurred during your inpatient and outpatient treatments, but also provides accurate documentation of your medical history along with any diagnoses made.
Note that the Patientenquittung is not to be confused with the “Electronic Patient File” (EPF), which since its introduction has caused a lot of controversy, given that many Germans are sceptical of its digital nature and aren’t too keen on having their confidential health information held online or in an app.
The Patientenquittung is similar to the EPF in its function, except it’s completely analogue. Unlike the EPF, the Patientenquittung is a letter containing an itemised list of your medical visits and treatments, and is sent through the post for added safety and confidentiality.
Why is having your Patientenquittung so important?
Well, it’s a good idea to have your doctor’s records in order in case you ever want to switch to a private health insurance provider. Health insurance companies can ask you to reveal records as far back as three years for outpatient treatment, and up to 10 years for inpatient treatment.
Whilst this is something you might not have to think about yet, remember health insurance is a numbers game. Without accurate records of your medical history, your health insurance premiums could skyrocket.
Revealing your health status and history honestly and accurately is of the utmost importance. For example, when buying private health insurance or occupational disability insurance in Germany, forgetting to reveal even minor health problems can cause a lot of hassle and problems down the road.
In some cases, this can lead to the insurance company withdrawing your contract or refusing to pay benefits. As you can imagine, this can lead to devastating consequences, like being significantly out of pocket or not being able to receive the medical care required. So, do your due diligence now to keep up to date with your medical records so that you don’t have to (literally) pay for it later!
How to obtain your Patientenquittung
You can request your Patientenquittung directly after any treatment. Alternatively, you can opt to receive the receipt at the end of every quarter. For the quarterly receipt, an expense allowance of 1 euro will be charged, as well as possible shipping costs if you would like to receive it in the post.
If your treatment included a hospital stay, you can decide up to two weeks after being discharged whether you would like a patient receipt. Again, you may be charged for postage if you do not receive your receipt directly on the day of discharge.
Some health insurance companies such as the Techniker Krankenkasse or the Barmer GEK also offer members access to their Patientenquittung. You can normally register for this service online via your health insurance provider; speak to them directly to discuss this.
Questions about the Patientenquittung or health insurance in Germany? Get in touch with the friendly team of English-speaking health insurance brokers at KLforExpats and find out how they can help. KLforExpats untangle the confusing world of health insurance and ensure that you get the best possible support for you!