Three out of four patients are familiar with individual health services (IGeL) in a doctor's practice. IGeL, which can do more harm than good, are still among the top sellers. New on the IGeL market are COVID-19 antibody tests. Due to insufficient information about the significance of the test results, there is a risk that patients could be lulled into a false sense of security and therefore disregard distance and hygiene rules.
In a representative survey, the IGeL Monitor asked nearly 2,300 insured persons for its IGeL Report 2020. The survey was conducted among people between the ages of 20 and 69 who were covered by statutory health insurance. The survey, which was conducted before the outbreak of the pandemic, confirmed the results of the IGeL Report 2018, with the TOP 10 of the best-selling IGeLs remaining virtually unchanged. At the top continues to be intraocular pressure measurement for early glaucoma detection by the ophthalmologist and ovarian ultrasound for early cancer detection - for both, the potential harm outweighs the benefit. The PSA test for the early detection of prostate cancer, which is also to be critically evaluated from the perspective of the IGeL monitor, continues to be part of the program. "When dealing with the IGeL offers it is crucial that patients are well informed and educated. Binding rules apply to the sale of self-pay services. Good information must be provided and no pressure must be applied. Both are complained about by the insured and must change," says Dr. Peter Pick, Managing Director of MDS.
There is also potential for improvement in the use of COVID-19 antibody tests. In July 2020, the MDS commissioned a supplementary survey of the insured and carried out random research at 50 medical practices. The aim was to find out whether such tests are offered and accepted at all and how patients are informed about them. Out of 50 medical practices, half offered antibody tests and only two explicitly rejected them. Most of them offered laboratory tests, but some also offered rapid tests, which were advised against by the Robert Koch Institute, the World Health Organization and the Society of General Practitioners.
About 6,800 people with statutory health insurance were asked about their experiences with COVID-19 antibody tests. Six percent of those questioned have already been offered a COVID-19 antibody test or have asked for one themselves. The initiative came half from the patient and half from the doctor. Patients asked most often if they had symptoms weeks or months before the test. On the other hand, 54 percent of respondents reported that they were offered the antibody test even though they had no symptoms.
Patients were often left alone when interpreting the test results. Over a quarter of those tested were left in the dark about how a positive test would affect immunity. More than one-third of those insured who took a COVID-19 antibody test received no information that the tests were associated with uncertainty. Nearly half of the respondents were not informed that false positive results are often possible.
* The MDS (Medizinischer Dienst des GKV-Spitzenverbandes) advises the central association of statutory health insurances in all medical and nursing questions assigned to it by law. It coordinates and promotes the execution of the tasks and the cooperation of the Medical Services of the Health Insurance Funds (MDK) at state level in medical and organizational matters