Monday, July 27, 2009

On the Mend

Last week was spent in and out of the orthopedic department at the university clinic in Frankfurt. I wanted to give a glimpse into how treatment differs a little from the US. As detailed in a previous post, B's leg was broken in Italy.

Upon our return to Oberursel, he first called up our "Hausarzt", or general physician. It is not unusual in the months of July and August to have to make appointments with alternate doctors because a lot of Germans (including physicians) are on a "Urlaub" (vacation). His general physician gave him a referral for orthopedic treatment.

B had to draw a number at the university clinic. We waited a while before the electronic display in the waiting showed his number and directed us to one of four "Schalter" or admission counters.

Once there, we presented the referral form from the general physician, B showed his TK insurance card and explained the reason for his visit. And then we waited, and waited, and waited... Waiting became the name of the game for four days. We would wait to see an orthopedic surgeon, for X-rays, for MRIs, more MRI's and finally to have his leg brace fitted. Occasionally, we had to wait at other locations to have MRIs done, for example.

Most striking was the fact that we only payed a total of 20 Euros co-pay for pain killers and the leg brace. Despite some of the waiting we had to do, we felt that B received good care, equivalent to the US. In fact, he got the MRIs immediately and they were better than one I had had in the US on one of my knees a number of years back. Plus, he got immediate results from a physician after the MRI, who then passed the information back to the orthopedic surgeon.

Some points worth noting - German physicians seem to prescribe Tylenol (Paracetamol) more often than any other painkiller. You have to insist on stronger stuff if a) you do not tolerate acetaminophen or b) your pain warrants something stronger. Be sure to ask a physician or pharmacist for drug interactions. Medication is described in German and dosage may differ from what is described in the printed material that comes with it as opposed to what your doctor recommends.

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