A large part of basic medical care in Germany is provided in the outpatient sector, which also includes a large proportion of areas of specialisation.
With regard to the corona pandemic, hospitals are the main focus of attention. Around 5-15% of those who have tested positive for SARS-CoV-2 have a course of disease that requires hospital consultation or admission to hospital. However, mild cases of COVID-19 infection should, if possible, be treated exclusively on an outpatient basis.
The outpatient sector thus takes over the main quantitative burden of care for COVID-19 patients on the one hand. On the other hand, it serves as the first point of contact for those affected, especially in the GP sector.
In addition, cancellation of elective procedures in hospitals leads to a shift of inpatient cases to outpatient care, where they are (further) treated in the sense of conservative therapy. In addition to direct medical care, the outpatient sector is also an important component of health care in terms of information transfer, information for relatives, (epidemic) protection measures advice and prevention.
Furthermore, the change in patients’ outpatient utilisation behaviour has long-term effects on the health status of those affected. Previous research work on pandemic prevention and control has mainly focused on the hospital and inpatient sector. Little research has been done to date on the outpatient sector and the role of doctors in private practice.