Berlin, February 23, 2016 – Around 3.25 million people in Germany suffer from chronic pain. However, despite important progress, their care still needs to be significantly improved. This is the result of the BARMER GEK Doctor Report 2016, which for the first time provides valid figures on the subject based on health insurance data. “Chronic pain is a disease in its own right that needs to be treated very specifically. With millions of people affected, combating chronic pain must become a national health goal,” said Dr. Christoph Straub, CEO of BARMER GEK, at the presentation of the study today in Berlin. His concern must be a continuous supply chain in order to prevent the chronicity of pain as often as possible through interdisciplinary cooperation. The family doctor should take on a pilot role.

Chronic pain is the most common in Brandenburg

The report shows that chronic pain is documented very differently from region to region in Germany. People in the state of Brandenburg are most commonly affected at 5.79 percent. The lowest rate was documented in Bremen at 2.94 percent. The national average diagnosis rate for chronic pain is 4.02 percent. For their evaluation, the report authors from the AQUA Institute Göttingen took into account the diagnoses that document chronic pain without direct reference to an organ. For the ten years from 2005 to 2014, it can be seen that chronic pain was diagnosed more and more frequently. In 2005, only 1.59 percent of the population was affected. Chronic pain is documented significantly more frequently in women across all age groups, with the number of those affected increasing with age. In the group of people over 80, around 13.2 percent were affected in 2014, 143,000 men and 444,000 women. This corresponded to diagnosis rates of 9.3 percent for men and 15.2 percent for women. Among those over 90, around ten percent of men and almost 16 percent of women are affected, around 15,000 men and almost 83,000 women.

Multimodal pain therapy only in one in five patients

According to Straub, a lot has happened in recent years in the care of chronic pain patients, but a differentiated picture of pain medicine is emerging. The number of patients treated in hospital with multimodal pain therapy more than doubled between 2006 and 2014. In 2014, around 61,000 patients received multimodal treatment for chronic pain. However, this would only correspond to a fifth of all patients who would potentially be suitable for such therapy. Straub pointed out that the provision of multimodal pain therapy was not sufficiently ensured, particularly from a quality perspective. “We therefore intensively support the efforts of the specialist societies to develop binding quality criteria for multimodal pain therapy in hospitals.”

Number of cases of outpatient treatment at a new high

The doctor's report analyzes current trends in this area of ​​care based on data from the outpatient medical care of 8.6 million BARMER GEK insured people in 2014. Prof. Dr. Joachim Szecsenyi, Managing Director of the AQUA Institute for Applied Quality Promotion and Research in Healthcare, Göttingen, pointed out that in 2014, every resident in Germany visited an average of around two doctors per quarter. With 8.5 treatment cases per capita, the number of cases in 2014 rose to a new high since 2005.

In 2014, health insurance companies paid an average of 522.96 euros for outpatient medical care for their insured persons. This corresponds to an increase of 3.5 percent compared to 2013, in which 505.24 euros were spent on an insured person. As in previous years, in 2014 the expenses for men were significantly less at 450 euros than for women at 593 euros. “Regional differences are evident again. In Berlin and Hamburg in 2014, there were insured outpatient treatment costs that were more than ten percent above the national average,” said Szecsenyi.

Data from the BARMER GEK doctor report 2016

  • In outpatient medical care for chronic pain patients, the number of patients affected increased continuously between 2008 and 2014, from 0.59 percent to 0.81 percent. Accordingly, around 655,000 people in Germany received outpatient treatment for chronic pain in 2014.
  • The 1,142 doctors involved in the care of chronic pain patients are distributed differently across regions. In Lower Saxony there were 0.54 doctors per 100,000 inhabitants, in Bremen around 2.6 (see from page 218).