Leistungen // Laterales Management

what's wrong with me?

For five years, the Dresden-based company “Was hab ich?” (What’s wrong with me?) has been translating 30 doctors’ letters a day for patients. The company is funded by the AOK health insurance company, the Bertelsmann Foundation and the government.

It has an annual budget of EUR 350,000. Patients email their diagnoses and volunteers (medical students or retired doctors) translate them into comprehensible language. All this sounds somewhat anachronistic. Clearly, the original aim of medical diagnoses was to facilitate communication between doctors. The proverbial medical German was learnt at universities as a kind of secret language. The written form ranged from legible to a complete scribble. However, the fact that patients should know what illness they are suffering from is not likely to be particularly revolutionary, since the idea of the responsible patient emerged some 50 years ago.

Nevertheless, there seems to be a market for this. 30 requests for easily comprehensible diagnoses are accepted on the website every day. The platform opens at 7.00 in the morning – anybody who arrives too late can ask for a translation of his doctor’s letter the following day.

Was hab ich?” has found a partner in the Paracelsus-Kliniken, which are planning to standardise patient letters

The discharge letter is a doctor’s letter discharging a patient when he/she leaves the hospital. This letter has been around for a hundred years. Now, there is to be a template for it and it is to be written in such a comprehensible way that patients understand it too.

Hospitals have so far been resistant to it because standardisation would be too expensive. Really? 19 million discharge letters are written per year. If the letter is standardised it will be cheaper than having every doctor spend a lot of time producing his own discharge letter each time.

It would be marvellous for Was hab ich? if all hospitals were to declare their readiness to write a digital standardised patient letter. The company could then finally earn money from its experiences in rephrasing medical German and would no longer need government support.

However, the fact that such translations are necessary is scandalous. In the 21st century, doctors could certainly write their diagnoses in comprehensible German. Culturally speaking, jargon is pretty dated.