Do German public reporting websites provide information that office-based physicians consider before referring patients to hospital? A four-step analysis

Kolb B, Emmert M, Sander U, Patzelt C, Schöffski O (2018)

Publication Type: Journal article

Publication year: 2018


Pages Range: 42-53

DOI: 10.1016/j.zefq.2018.07.010




In recent years, many different performance frameworks and quality assurance systems have been developed to measure health care quality. In Germany, an external quality assurance system for hospitals was introduced in 2005. The data of these systems are often reported by public reporting websites (PRWs) to inform patients and other stakeholders interested in health care systems about health care providers' quality. However, publication is obligatory (at least in Germany) for most of the existing quality assurance measures; some may be reported voluntarily. An important target group for this information is the group of all office-based physicians as they are crucial for patients' hospital choice. However, public reporting initiatives in Germany and other countries have not increased the use of quality reports for hospital choice.


(1) To summarize the criteria that office-based physicians consider to be of high, medium, and low importance for hospital selection when referring patients and (2) to examine whether German public reporting websites (PRWs) provide these hospital-related criteria.


The analysis comprised four steps: 1) Five databases were systematically searched for peer-reviewed English- and German-language literature. 2) The selection of articles was based on compliance with inclusion criteria, and all the criteria relevant to the referral of patients to hospital were extracted. 3) The criteria were then divided into five main categories: structural quality, process quality, outcome quality, patient experience, and referring physicians' experience. In addition, the criteria were classified into three importance categories (high-, medium-, and low-priority criteria) according to their relevance to the referral decision. 4) We investigated whether German PRWs publicly report high-priority criteria.


A total of N=11 articles published in peer-reviewed journals met our inclusion criteria. The studies were published in Germany (n=4), the Netherlands (n=3), Denmark, France, Norway, and the USA (n=1 each). In total, N=86 criteria were identified, most of them relating to structural quality (n=43) and process quality (n=26). We found just n=3 outcome quality criteria, only one of which fell in the high-priority category (breast cancer indicators with clinically relevant differences). In total, n=25 low-, n=40 medium-, and n=34 high-priority criteria could be established, which is due to the fact that some criteria had been investigated in several studies evaluating the importance of some criteria differently. Most of the high-priority criteria were related to process quality. All the high-priority structural quality criteria and high-priority outcome quality criteria were available on German PRWs, whereas just 38.5 % of those relating to process quality could be identified on these portals. We also identified 66.7 % of the high-priority criteria regarding patient experience and 50.0 % concerning the referring physicians' experience. Overall, a larger amount of low- and medium-priority criteria are available on German PRWs than high-priority criteria.


A substantial amount of hospital information regarding structural quality and outcome quality is available on German PRWs. However, the development of further process quality criteria (which are currently underrepresented) should be considered, for example whether hospital physicians continue the medication initiated by office-based doctors. Also, hospital quality reports should be tailored for specific user groups, for instance for referring gynecologists or referring general practitioners (GPs).

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Kolb, B., Emmert, M., Sander, U., Patzelt, C., & Schöffski, O. (2018). Do German public reporting websites provide information that office-based physicians consider before referring patients to hospital? A four-step analysis. Zeitschrift für Evidenz, Fortbildung und Qualitat im Gesundheitswesen, 42-53.


Kolb, Benjamin, et al. "Do German public reporting websites provide information that office-based physicians consider before referring patients to hospital? A four-step analysis." Zeitschrift für Evidenz, Fortbildung und Qualitat im Gesundheitswesen (2018): 42-53.

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