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Germany: New online atlas compares 1,700 hospitals' services

May 17, 2024

Which hospital in Germany offers which services at which level of quality? The government is launching a new online "atlas" tracking this. The health minister said it offered a "clear guide through the hospital jungle."

German Minister of Health Karl Lauterbach presents the Federal Hospital Atlas
The Federal Hospital Atlas is designed "so that everyone can understand it," German Minister of Health Karl Lauterbach said.Image: Metodi Popow/IMAGO

The Federal Hospital Atlas or Bundes-Klinik-Atlaswebsite was launched online for German residents since Friday.

The new portal allows patients to learn online about the strengths and weaknesses of individual hospitals in Germany.

"With the Federal Hospital Atlas, we are offering patients a clear guide through the hospital jungle in Germany," said German Health Minister Karl Lauterbach at the launch in Berlin. "With just a few clicks, they can compare hospitals and find the best hospital in their area for the treatment they need."

The portal provides information on each and every one of the approximately 1,700 clinics in Germany. However, not all information is available immediately. The atlas will be gradually updated over the coming months.

The legal basis for the atlas is the Hospital Transparency Act passed by Germany's parliament in March. The atlas is part of Lauterbach's reform of the hospital system, which is aimed, among other things, at increasing specialization.

What information does the atlas contain?

Patients can already use the atlas to find out which facilities offer which procedures, how often they are performed there, and how many nursing staff are available on site. There is also an indication of which clinics have certificates as proof of their level of specialization in certain treatments.

According to Lauterbach, the complication rates for selected surgeries will also be published "in a few weeks." In other words, data on what goes wrong and how often. Such data is already being collected, but not published.

"This will mean that patients will be more selective about their surgeries," says Lauterbach. The fact that some hospitals are then avoided for certain procedures is entirely intentional, the minister said. He pointed to studies that show "very large differences" in the quality of care at individual hospitals.

Choosing the right hospital also reduces the risk of death, Lauterbach added. Every year, thousands of preventable deaths occur simply because patients are treated in a hospital that lacks the necessary qualifications.

Are Germany’s hospitals in critical condition?

Cautious expectations of patient advocates

Patient advocates welcomed the new online service, but warned that clinics would give preference to "younger, promising patients" in order to demonstrate a good track record.

"The result would be discrimination against the elderly, the chronically ill and those in need of care," warned Eugen Brysch of the German Foundation for Patient Protection (Die Deutsche Stiftung Patientenschutz).

The German Social Association (Der Sozialverband Deutschland ) welcomed the atlas, but said it would now have to prove itself.

"It remains to be seen how great the added value for patients really is," it said.

Hospital quality comparison portals, such as those offered by health insurance companies, already exist on the internet. According to Lauterbach, what differentiates the new federal atlas is its easy comprehensibility and large amount of data.

The system was designed "so that everyone can understand it," Lauterbach, who studied medicine himself, said.

dh/msh (AFP, dpa)