Objectives: This study aims to describe how a negative reimbursement decision—based on the health technology assessment (HTA) report of a nondrug intervention—affects healthcare providers in Germany.
Methods: Knee arthroscopy was chosen as an example, because as of April 2016 this procedure is no longer reimbursed for osteoarthritis, but is still covered for other indications, including meniscal lesions. The exclusion followed an HTA report prepared by the Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Health Care (IQWiG). Here, we examine how the decision to revoke reimbursement for arthroscopy was perceived by the surgical community. Information was collected from official hospital statistics, the internet, and informal interviews with orthopedic surgeons.
Results: In 2015, a total of 37,920 arthroscopic procedures were performed for knee osteoarthritis in Germany. Several surgical societies were unhappy with the negative decision, which was issued as a directive in November 2015, and they challenged the decision-making process as well as the underlying scientific evidence. In March 2016, fifteen societies issued joint recommendations on how to differentiate osteoarthritis from other knee diseases and how to document other diseases in a way that inspections by representatives of health insurance funds would not detect any deficiencies. In informal interviews, orthopedic surgeons indicated that miscoding of the principal diagnosis (meniscal tear rather than knee osteoarthritis) is to be expected, especially in the hospital sector.
Conclusions: HTA can have a significant impact on the provision of health services, but various loopholes allow physicians to undermine policy decisions. Therefore, it is important to involve all stakeholders in HTA and to convince them of the benefits of evidence-based medicine.