What is changing in German healthcare in 2020?

What is changing in German healthcare in 2020?

Along with a whole host of other changes in 2020, the Digital Supply Act (DVG) really gets going this year. We take a look at some of the major changes you should expect as the German healthcare system goes digital. 

Extended doctor-on-call service

As of January 2, 2020, the medical on-call service (Ärztliche Bereitschaftdienst) is now available round the clock, offering callers medical assistance or emergency doctors’ appointments. The service has been extended in an attempt to ease the pressure on doctors and emergency departments in hospitals

You should call 116 117 if you feel unwell outside of normal surgery hours. The staff will connect you to a doctor via telephone, direct you to your local on-call practice, or even send a doctor to your home. In the case of medical emergencies112 should still be used to alert emergency services

Apps by prescription

For the first time ever this year, doctors in Germany will be able to prescribe health-orientated apps to their patients. Any costs incurred will be reimbursed by statutory health insurance. The Federal Institute for Drugs and Medical Devices will check the quality and safety of the applications; the developers then have one year to prove that their app improves the quality of care.

Online doctor consultations 

The DVG also promotes the use of online consultations. Doctors will, for the first time, be allowed to actively promote digital consultations on their websites (before they were only allowed to discuss them in private conversations). Since October, health insurance companies have been providing start-up funding to doctors and physiotherapists who want to offer video consultation hours. 

Digital prescriptions

In order to reduce paperwork in the healthcare system, the new law is also angling to do away with the “pink paper prescription” (rosa Papierrezept). It will gradually be replaced with an electronic variant. 

The Federal Association of Pharmacists’ (ABDA) is working on a uniform app that all pharmacies in Germany could use - 12.000 have already registered for it. However, the pink form won’t be abolished immediately and ABDA is adamant that you won’t suddenly need a smartphone to get a prescription. 

Digital sick notes

The digital wave doesn’t stop with prescriptions, because sick notes are going digital as well! The “Gelber Schein”, the paper certificate that must be issued in triplicate by doctors whose patients wish to take sick leave, is set to be replaced by a digital version from 2021. Since an estimated 77 million certificates are issued nationwide each year, the move has been hailed as a blessing. 

Electronic patient records

The digitisation of healthcare in Germany reaches its peak with the electronic patient record (ePA). From 2021, all state-insured patients will be able to receive a digital copy of their medical records from their insurer, if they wish. 

The file will include observations, diagnoses, vaccination histories and doctor’s letters. The patient then has the power to decide which information should be kept in the file, and what they want to delete.   



Abi Carter

Managing Editor at IamExpat Media. Abi studied German and History at the University of Manchester and has since lived in Berlin, Hamburg and Utrecht, working since 2017 as a writer,...

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