Clinic reform: When the Minister of Health waves your master's thesis: "I almost fell off my chair"

Buenos Aires, sunny 33 degrees, light wind.

Clinic reform: When the Minister of Health waves your master's thesis: "I almost fell off my chair"

Buenos Aires, sunny 33 degrees, light wind. Nils Kollmann smiles into the camera, the sky above him glows blue. “I was in the right place at the right time,” says the 29-year-old. By that he doesn't mean the six-month break he's currently taking in Argentina. He talks about his master's thesis.

Kollmann actually submitted the work three years ago, when he completed his studies in health technology. At that time, he could not yet know what reforms a future Federal Health Minister, Karl Lauterbach from the SPD, would undertake. And that his master's thesis will play an important role in the minister's argument.

But that's exactly how it was supposed to happen. In December 2022, Lauterbach will announce a “revolution” for hospitals. Their number should be reduced and they themselves should be financed differently in order to improve the quality of the interventions. The first step is to create an online portal. Here, patients can find out which services which hospitals provide and in what quality. Roughly simplified, this is the content of the so-called Transparency Act, which precedes the actual hospital reform.

The reform is already stalling when it comes to the Transparency Act. The federal states have been blocking it for months, complaining about the interference with their planning sovereignty. Weeks of struggle and laborious persuasion begin for Lauterbach. And this is where Kollmann's investigation comes into play. Because their results provide the minister with support: for Lauterbach, they show why his transparency law is so important. In January, the minister even invited people to a press conference at which Kollmann's course director at the Technical University of Berlin, Reinhard Busse, presented these results.

What Kollmann found: That the available hospital quality data (which necessarily comes from the past and is currently published about two years late) provides a useful insight into how well a hospital can treat a heart attack, stroke or fracture of the femoral neck today. And that is exactly the idea of ​​Lauterbach's transparency register, which should be accessible to everyone.

This should bring about a significant improvement for the people who can find out more about it there. Because this can also be deduced from Kollmann's study: "If only five percent of stroke patients are treated in one of the better equipped clinics instead of in a worse one, hundreds of lives could be saved in Germany every year," says Kollmann.

A master’s thesis that becomes relevant in political Berlin – how many can claim that? In any case, Kollmann had no idea of ​​this when he worked for months in his free time in 2021 to convert his 120-page master's thesis, which was written in German, into an abridged English version in order to submit it to a specialist publication. Last November it worked – PLOS published its “observational study of German hospital data”.

It starts with this publication: His course director, who sits on Lauterbach's expert council, drew the minister's attention to the study, says Kollmann. The minister then shares the study on the social network “X” (formerly “Twitter”).

“When I saw the tweet, I almost fell out of my chair,” says the 29-year-old. Or rather from the Berlin S-Bahn station, because he was just on the way home. "My master's thesis - shared by the Minister of Health! I would never have dreamed of that in my life." At Lauterbach's press conference, he sits in one of the back rows and listens to the minister - he "couldn't really believe it all."

It may have helped Lauterbach. On Wednesday evening, the so-called mediation committee was able to resolve the blockade. The law can come. “Patients finally find out where they can best be treated,” says Lauterbach, commenting on the result. The states still have to vote on it in the Bundesrat on March 22nd. The minister is confident.