Country Correspondent: Michael Laxy

German patients enrolled in a “family-physician contract,” in which their family physician acts as a gatekeeper to specialty services, have longer life expectancies and lower hospitalization rates, according to a new study. These contracts were introduced in 2004 and now enroll around 4.8 million Germans. The evaluation, which was based on claims data of more than 1.3 million people in the Baden-Wurttemberg region, also showed that enrollees had lower rates of unnecessary imaging for chronic back pain, higher influenza vaccination rates among adults age 60 and older, and lower rates of severe complications from diabetes compared with people not enrolled. The evaluation also found that the contracts led to cost savings from reduced hospitalizations and specialty visits and lower medication use.