State of Ambulatory Health Centers in Germany
DOI: 10.3238/zfa.2014.0226-0230german translation / full article
Introduction: In the last 10 years there has been a notable increase in the number of medical care clinics (MVZ) as well as outpatient health centres in Germany – not only in bigger cities, but also in rural areas. This contrasts with the trend of decreasing numbers of single-handed family physicians’ (FP) practices. The advantages and disadvantages of the medical care clinics and the outpatient health centres have been controversially discussed by the public, but hardly by medical professionals. This is particularly true with respect to health centres. This study aims to provide an overview of the existing outpatient health centres in Germany and their characteristics from a FP’s perspective.
Methods: An internet research was conducted between January to March 2012 using the keywords “Gesundheitszentren”, “Ärztehaus”, and “ambulante Behandlungszentren” by which we obtained the number and characteristics of health centres. Facts such as the opening year, numbers of family practitioners and medical specialists as well as the catchment area were recorded.
Results: We found 105 outpatient health centres in Germany. Half of them (52) had been established within the last five years. 26 centres (25 %) were located in rural areas. The average number of FPs was 1.75 (range 0–10) and 8.1 medical specialists (range 0–44) per centre.
Discussion: In recent years there has been a rapid increase in the number of MVZ and outpatient health centres. This increase has been seen both in metropolitan and rural areas. To assess the benefits, advantages and disadvantages of the centres´ quality of care more health services research is needed.