The number of treatments in hospitals continues to fall

AOK evaluation
Third year of the pandemic: Significantly fewer treatments in the hospital

Also in 2022 a significant decrease in treatments in hospital.

© Peer Grimm / Picture Alliance

Even in the third year of the pandemic, Corona caused a decline in treatments in hospitals. But there are now other reasons that play a role.

The number of treatments in hospitals fell by 15 percent in 2022 compared to the pre-pandemic year 2019, as an analysis by the AOK Scientific Institute (Wido) shows. This is an even sharper drop than in 2020 (down 13 percent) and 2021 (down 14 percent). In psychiatry, the decline in 2022 was almost eleven percent. The evaluation is based on the data of the AOK-insured, they represent about a third of the German population.

The reasons for the reduced number of treatments in clinics in the third year of the pandemic differ from the problems from the two previous years. “The fall in the number of cases in the past year was no longer due to the fact that capacities were kept free for seriously ill corona patients, but essentially due to the enormous loss of staff as a result of the waves of infection caused by the Omicron variant in 2022,” said Wido Managing Director Jürgen Klauber in a communication for analysis.

Biggest decreases in back pain and high blood pressure

The biggest drops were in so-called outpatient-sensitive diagnoses. In other words, cases that do not have to be treated in a hospital, but can also be treated by specialists in practices. In 2022, for example, hospital treatments for back pain and high blood pressure fell by 35 percent compared to 2019. Followed by the chronic lung disease COPD (minus 28 percent), diabetes (minus 21 percent) and heart failure (minus 14 percent). These numbers are comparable to the two previous Corona years. Jürgen Klauber emphasized that Corona could be an accelerator here: In other words, a stronger shift in the treatment of such cases in the outpatient area. This is urgently needed in Germany, according to Klauber.

The number of tonsil operations has also fallen sharply – by 35 percent compared to 2019. “One reason could be that the hygiene rules during the pandemic have reduced the incidence of tonsillitis.”

“Particular cause for concern is the significantly greater decline in colon cancer operations,” said Jürgen Klauber. These fell by 16 percent compared to the time before the pandemic. This could be due to the fact that fewer colonoscopy were carried out. Breast cancer surgeries are down five percent from 2019.

Fewer people being treated in hospitals for heart attacks and strokes

Another result: A significant decline in hospital treatments can also be seen for heart attacks and strokes: Heart attack treatments have fallen by 13 percent compared to 2019 and stroke treatments by eleven percent. This decline cannot be explained by the analyzed data. “The data suggest that the declines in the milder heart attacks and strokes are higher
are. Apparently, people with milder symptoms in particular were treated less in the hospital,” said Jürgen Klauber.

But if there are signs of a heart attack or stroke, it is an emergency and the emergency services should definitely be alerted. Read here how to recognize a stroke. You can find out here how you can react and provide first aid in the event of a heart attack.

A look at the corona patients shows again that in the omicron waves of 2022 there were significantly fewer severe cases in the clinics due to Covid 19 infections than in the first years of the pandemic. The proportion of ventilated patients fell to eight percent in the sixth wave of the pandemic from June to September 2022. In the fourth wave at the end of 2021, however, it was 22 percent.

Source: Press release Wido

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