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BMC Health Serv Res. 2007 Oct 17;7:165.

Evaluating compulsory minimum volume standards in Germany: how many hospitals were compliant in 2004?

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  • 1Professorship for Public Health, University Hospital of the Heinrich-Heine University Düsseldorf, Moorenstrasse 5, 40225 Düsseldorf, Germany.



Minimum hospital procedure volumes are discussed as an instrument for quality assurance. In 2004 Germany introduced such annual minimum volumes nationwide on five surgical procedures: kidney, liver, stem cell transplantation, complex oesophageal, and pancreatic interventions. The present investigation is the first part of a study evaluating the effects of these minimum volumes on health care provision. Research questions address how many hospitals and cases were affected by minimum volume regulations in 2004, how affected hospitals were distributed according to minimum volumes, and how many hospitals within the 16 German states complied with the standards set for 2004.


The evaluation is based on the mandatory hospital quality reports for 2004. In the reports, all hospitals are statutorily obliged to state the number of procedures performed for each minimum volume. The data were analyzed descriptively.


In 2004, 485 out of 1710 German hospitals providing acute care and approximately 0.14% of all hospital cases were affected by minimum volume regulations. Liver, kidney, and stem cell transplantation affected from 23 to hospitals; complex oesophageal and pancreatic interventions affected from 297 to 455 hospitals. The inter-state comparison of the average hospital care area demonstrates large differences between city states and large area states and the eastern and western German states ranging from a minimum 51 km2 up to a maximum 23.200 km2, varying according to each procedure. A range of 9% - 16% of the transplantation hospitals did not comply with the standards affecting 1% - 2% of the patients whereas 29% and 18% of the hospitals treating complex oesophageal and pancreatic interventions failed the standards affecting 2% - 5% of the prevailing cases.


In 2004, the newly introduced minimum volume regulations affected only up to a quarter of German acute care hospitals and few cases. However, excluding the hospitals not meeting the minimum volume standards from providing the respective procedures deserves considering two aspects: the hospital health care provision concepts by the German states as being responsible and from a patient perspective the geographically equal access to hospital care.

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