BIt was only a guess that patients with potentially serious illnesses have recently refrained from going to the hospital – for fear that they will become infected with the novel coronavirus there. Emergency physicians have repeatedly reported in the past few weeks that significantly fewer patients with suspected heart attack and stroke have come to the emergency room since the outbreak began in Germany – although in many cases it can be life-threatening not to treat such serious diseases . Now, for the first time, detailed evaluations are available from a large health insurance company, and they point in the same direction.
As of April 24, the statisticians of the AOK health insurance company recorded a significant decline in the number of cases of their insured in many areas. The so-called initial diagnoses are considered, i.e. the suspected diagnoses that have prompted the attending doctor to admit a patient to the hospital. Compared to the same period in the previous year, two thirds fewer insureds came to the hospital with suspected musculoskeletal or connective tissue disorders. In respiratory and digestive system diseases, the decrease was about half each. The health insurance company recorded 40 percent fewer admissions for circulatory diseases.
In a second evaluation by the health insurance company, it becomes clear that the number of cases in many areas collapsed almost exactly in mid-March – at the time when the federal and state governments decided on the far-reaching contact restrictions. From then on, fewer patients with suspected heart attack, stroke and heart failure presented in the clinics. According to the AOK evaluation, the declines were particularly high in Bavaria and also tended to affect smaller hospitals across the country with up to 200 beds. The numbers have been slowly rising again since mid-April.
The managing director of the AOK Scientific Institute, Jürgen Klauber, said on Thursday that the data represents “first internal work on the problem”. It is still difficult to interpret. This has to do with the fact that the suspected diagnoses are often not confirmed during hospital treatment and are different when the patients are released. Klauber therefore warns against evaluating the evaluation as evidence of an “actual supply problem or the real scope” of this problem. “However, one or the other patient with complaints will postpone the visit to the doctor or the emergency room right now,” said Klauber.