So far a pure niche offer in Germany

Here and there, there have been video consultation hours on the Internet even before. The target group was younger private patients throughout. The providers were mostly doctors with a practice in other European countries, for example in Great Britain. In Germany, large sections of the medical profession were sceptical. Here, the iron rule applied: the treatment of a patient requires that the doctor has the patient in front of him personally. Exceptions were rare.

Sometimes more common abroad

In some cases, this was already handled differently abroad. Of course, not everything there is done over the Internet. But many things do. But that alone would not have been a reason for a change in Germany. Because these video consultation hours from abroad were not serious competition for the local medical profession.

Corona as co-trigger

Corona was a driving force for change. At least for a suspected corona diagnosis it is often not necessary to see the patient. The doctor sends him for a smear test and then continues to see him. This can also be done via video. Similar examples can be found in most medical fields.

Billing now also possible for patients covered by health insurance

In addition, a „practice visit by video“ can now be billed to the health insurance companies. The central association of statutory health insurance and the Federal Association of Statutory Health Insurance Physicians recently concluded an „Agreement on the requirements for technical procedures for video consultation“. It specifies what a doctor must observe in order to be able to bill.

High standards for data protection

Among the requirements that a doctor must meet are precise specifications for data protection. The agreement lays down technical specifications to be respected, such as appropriate encryption. Without them, there could be a breach of medical confidentiality. Doctors cannot risk this. Such breaches can constitute a criminal offence and also have ethical consequences.

Only certified systems allowed

A video consultation via zoom or similar systems generally offered on the Internet, which are common in everyday office life, is excluded. Only systems from providers who have undergone special certification may be used. They are registered in a list with the Federal Association of Statutory Health Insurance Physicians.

No registration for patients

Important for all patients: You do not have to register anywhere before using such a system! It is different for the doctor. He has to go through a registration process with the system provider. This prevents dubious people from posing as doctors

Video consultation only by appointment

Patients who wish to have a video appointment must arrange it in advance with the practice. This can be done by telephone or by using a tool for booking appointments on the Internet. Access to the consultation hours is granted with an access code, which the doctor sends to the patient in good time before the appointment. It is the patient’s own responsibility to handle this access code with care. This is especially true if the consultation is arranged with a doctor who does not yet know the patient personally.

Hardly any weak points for confidentiality in the medical practice

Conceivable weak points for confidentiality lie in the doctor’s or patient’s environment, which is not visible on the screen. At the doctor’s office, one can assume that there are no other people in the practice secretly listening in or watching. This would be a serious breach of medical confidentiality

Weak points in the patient’s home

It may look worse in the patient’s home environment. If you cannot retreat into a room alone for a video consultation, you may want to leave it alone. And letting someone else listen in secret may not be a crime. But it is certainly not fair to the doctor.

An offer, not a compulsion!

If you observe the security measures described above, there is nothing against trying out a video consultation. It is an additional offer, for both statutory and private patients, no more and no less.