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Open Access Research article

Effect of the delegation of GP-home visits on the development of the number of patients in an ambulatory healthcare centre in Germany

Neeltje van den Berg1*, Romy Heymann2, Claudia Meinke1, Sebastian E Baumeister3, Steffen Fleßa4 and Wolfgang Hoffmann1

Author Affiliations

1 University Medicine Greifswald, Institute for Community Medicine, Ellernholzstr. 1-2, 17487, Greifswald, Germany

2 University of Duisburg-Essen, Institute for Health Care Management and Research, Schützenbahn 70, 45127, Essen, Germany

3 University Medicine Greifswald, Institute for Community Medicine, Walter-Rathenau-Str. 48, 17475, Greifswald, Germany

4 University of Greifswald, Faculty of Law and Economics, Friedrich-Loeffler-Str. 70, 17489, Greifswald, Germany

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BMC Health Services Research 2012, 12:355  doi:10.1186/1472-6963-12-355

Published: 10 October 2012

Abstract

Background

The AGnES-concept (AGnES: GP-supporting, community-based, e-health-assisted, systemic intervention) was developed to support general practitioners (GPs) in undersupplied regions. The project aims to delegate GP-home visits to qualified AGnES-practice assistants, to increase the number of patients for whom medical care can be provided.

This paper focuses on the effect of delegating GP-home visits on the total number of patients treated. First, the theoretical number of additional patients treated by delegating home visits to AGnES-practice assistants was calculated. Second, actual changes in the number of patients in participating GP-practices were analyzed.

Methods

The calculation of the theoretical increase in the number of patients was based on project data, data which were provided by the Association of Statutory Health Insurance Physicians, or which came from the literature.

Setting of the project was an ambulatory healthcare centre in the rural county Oberspreewald-Lausitz in the Federal State of Brandenburg, which employed six GPs, four of which participated in the AGnES project. The analysis of changes in the number of patients in the participating GP-practices was based on the practices’ reimbursement data.

Results

The calculated mean capacity of AGnES-practice assistants was 1376.5 home visits/year. GPs perform on average 1200 home visits/year. Since home visits with an urgent medical reason cannot be delegated, we included only half the capacity of the AGnES-practice assistants in the analysis (corresponding to a 20 hour-work week). Considering all parameters in the calculation model, 360.1 GP-working hours/year can be saved. These GP-hours could be used to treat 170 additional patients/quarter year. In the four participating GP-practices the number of patients increased on average by 133 patients/quarter year during the project period, which corresponds to 78% of the theoretically possible number of patients.

Conclusions

The empirical findings on the potential to increase the number of patients in GP-practices through delegation of tasks come close to the theoretical calculations. Differences between the calculated and the real values may be due to differences in the age and mortality distribution of the patients. The results indicate that a support system based on practice assistants can alleviate the consequences of GP-shortages in rural areas.

Keywords:
GP-shortage; Delegation of GP-home visits; Rural regions; Ambulatory healthcare centre