Doctors can still write patients off sick by phone

ÄPhysicians can continue to call patients with mild respiratory diseases sick for a maximum of seven days without the patients having to come to the practice. It is still possible to extend the sick leave by a further seven days by telephone. The Federal Joint Committee of doctors, health insurance companies and clinics decided on Thursday to extend a corresponding special regulation until the end of March. Otherwise it would have expired at the end of the month.

The regulation will “continue to be needed,” said the chairman of the committee, Josef Hecken. “It is difficult to predict at the moment how the number of cases of Covid-19 sufferers in hospitals and intensive care units will develop in the coming months,” said Hecken. “We are facing the cold and flu season.” This is aggravating. sick leave by telephone increased the safety of the employees in the doctor’s offices and protected other patients who have a higher risk of infection because of their underlying diseases. “With the telephone sick note, medical practices now have an easy-to-implement option to differentiate between mild and severe cases of illness and to avoid full waiting rooms.” According to the National Association of Statutory Health Insurance Physicians, there are around 55,000 general practitioners nationwide.

The German Association of General Practitioners is committed to ensuring that sick leave can be taken over the phone on a permanent basis and not just as part of a special regulation. The chairman of the association, Markus Beier, criticized the fact that the regulation was only extended as “backward-looking”. For Beier, the extension is an indication that the Federal Joint Committee and its members “obviously do not have the desire” to permanently introduce sick leave by telephone.

According to Techniker Krankenkasse, employees were on sick leave for longer than ever before in this period in the first half of the year. During this period, employees insured with statutory health insurance were absent from work for an average of 9.1 days. In the first six months of the previous year, the figure was only 6.8 days, in the first half of 2020 it was 7.9 days. “In the first quarter of this year, the number of sick leave increased noticeably and reached record levels,” said the CEO of Techniker Krankenkasse, Jens Baas, when the figures were presented in September. “The main reason for absenteeism is still sick leave due to respiratory diseases such as flu and colds.”

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