Sharing responsibilities within the general practice team – a cross-sectional study of task delegation in Germany

  • Background: Expected growth in the demand for health services has generated interest in the more effective deployment of health care assistants. Programs encouraging German general practitioners (GPs) to share responsibility for care with specially qualified health care assistants in the family practice (VERAHs) have existed for several years. But no studies have been conducted on the tasks German GPs are willing to rely on specially qualified personnel to perform, what they are prepared to delegate to all non-physician practice staff and what they prefer to do themselves. Methods: As part of an evaluation study on the deployment of VERAHs in GP-centered health care, we used a questionnaire to ask about task delegation within the practice team. From a list of tasks that VERAHs are specifically trained to carry out, GPs were asked to indicate which they actually delegate. We also asked GPs why they had employed a VERAH in their practice and for their opinions on the benefits and limitations of assigning tasks to VERAHs. The aim of the study was to find out which tasks GPs delegate to their specially qualified personnel, which they permit all HCAs to carry out, and which tasks they do not delegate at all. Results: The survey was filled in and returned by 245 GPs (83%). Some tasks were exclusively delegated to VERAHs (e.g. home visits), while others were delegated to all HCAs (e.g. vaccinations). About half the GPs rated the assessment of mental health, as part of the comprehensive assessment of a patient’s condition, as the sole responsibility of a GP. The possibility to delegate more complex tasks was the main reason given for employing a VERAH. Doctors said the delegation of home visits provided them with the greatest relief. Conclusions: In Germany, where GPs are solely accountable for the health care provided in their practices, experience with the transfer of responsibility to other non-physician health care personnel is still very limited. When HCAs have undergone special training, GPs seem to be prepared to delegate tasks that demand a substantial degree of know-how, such as home visits and case management. This “new” role allocation within the practice may signal a shift in the provision of health care by family practice teams in Germany.

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Author:Karola MergenthalORCiDGND, Martin Beyer, Ferdinand M. GerlachORCiDGND, Corina GüthlinORCiDGND
Pubmed Id:
Parent Title (English):PLoS One
Place of publication:Lawrence, Kan.
Document Type:Article
Date of Publication (online):2016/06/09
Date of first Publication:2016/06/09
Publishing Institution:Universitätsbibliothek Johann Christian Senckenberg
Release Date:2016/09/15
Issue:(6): e0157248
Page Number:12
First Page:1
Last Page:12
Copyright: © 2016 Mergenthal et al. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License , which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.
Institutes:Medizin / Medizin
Dewey Decimal Classification:6 Technik, Medizin, angewandte Wissenschaften / 61 Medizin und Gesundheit / 610 Medizin und Gesundheit
Licence (German):License LogoCreative Commons - Namensnennung 4.0