Both the Swiss and German healthcare systems stood up to the test of the pandemic. Treatments were conducted depending on their urgency – the vast majority of them at a later date as part of the backlog.
Using selected care examples, Helsana and German health insurance provider BARMER found in recent analyses for 2020 and 2021 that there was no widespread underprovision during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Despite experiencing similar pandemic progressions, administrative orders and state interventions in Switzerland and Germany differed significantly. A chronological comparison shows that Germany took significantly more restrictive measures and kept these in place for longer.
Measures put in place by authorities to reduce non-urgent medical interventions were ordered and adhered to in both the German and Swiss healthcare systems. This led to a marked decrease in total knee replacements in both countries during the first wave. In both countries, almost ten per cent fewer knee replacement operations were carried out than the year before. Switzerland has progressed further with this backlog than Germany has.
Various cantons have introduced breast cancer screening programmes since 2011. In Germany, all women aged between 50 and 69 are invited to a voluntary mammography screening. During the pandemic, there were indications that women of the recommended age between 50 and 69 in both countries were slightly more reticent when it came to undergoing a mammogram than they had been in previous years. In Switzerland, a catch-up effect was apparent in cantons with screening programmes, starting immediately after lockdown. No such effect was distinguishable in the cantons without screening programmes.
The heated debate surrounding the issue of vaccination during the COVID-19 pandemic does not seem to have had much of an impact on parents’ willingness to have their children vaccinated in either country. In fact, a slight increase was observed in the number of infants receiving the recommended basic vaccinations against measles, mumps and rubella. This is likely to be due in part to official recommendations for setting an earlier vaccination age back before the pandemic had even started.
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Following the publication of an initial report on the subject of “Minimum hospital volumes” last year, this report is the second publication by Barmer and Helsana. Both reports have the overriding aim of creating transparency regarding care provision in both healthcare systems, highlighting differences and using this insight to provide impetus for optimising quality and improving the cost-effectiveness of the individual systems.
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