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BMC Health Services Research

, 7:24

First Online: 22 February 2007Received: 13 October 2006Accepted: 22 February 2007DOI: 10.1186-1472-6963-7-24

Cite this article as: Schneider, N., Dierks, ML., Seidel, G. et al. BMC Health Serv Res 2007 7: 24. doi:10.1186-1472-6963-7-24


BackgroundThe political objective in many countries worldwide is to give better consideration to the interests of patients within the health system. The establishment of a federal government commissioner for the issues of patients in the health system in Germany in 2004 is part of these endeavours. The structure and field of activities of this institution has been unique so far. This study investigates for the first time the inquiries the commissioner receives from the public.

MethodsA 33% sampling n = 850 of the written inquiries correspondence and e-mails addressed to the commissioner in the first six months of the year 2005 n = 2580 was investigated. In a procedure comprising combined qualitative and quantitative levels, the material was thematically encoded and the inquiries allocated to the resulting categories multiple nominations. The results are presented in descriptive form and investigated especially with respect to sex and age-specific differences. The interdependences between the categorized criteria are analysed.

ResultsThe inquirers are equally spread out amongst the sexes 49% women, 51% men. Older persons outweigh the younger 69% over 60 years. In most cases the issues take the form of claims 72%, n = 609. In every fifth inquiry n = 168 the personal financial burden for health services is considered as being too high; about equally high n = 159 is the proportion of persons who criticize the communication with health professionals, especially hospitals and doctors- surgeries. Every third who mentions a medical practice uses terms such as -uncertainty- and -anxiety-. It is conspicuous that men more often than women write that they feel unfairly treated in the health system 62% vs. 38%, p < 0.05.

ConclusionPredominantly older persons seek the assistance of the federal government commissioner for patient issues. Considerable uncertainty and anxiety with respect to services and charges within the system of the German health insurances become evident. It is not possible from the data to draw conclusions concerning the impact of the commissioner-s work on the health system. Nor do we gain any knowledge about the usefulness of the service for the individual. Therefore, evaluation of the political impact and the user satisfaction should follow.

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Autor: Nils Schneider - Marie-Luise Dierks - Gabriele Seidel - Friedrich W Schwartz


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