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No access to care: patient experiences

In this video patients share their stories of their difficulties accessing care in the healthcare system.
PHILIPS: It all began about a year ago. I was at work, and suddenly I got a terrible pain just in my lower back. I couldn’t move that much due to the pain. So I thought of going to a traumatologist, because I thought it was something to do with my muscles. So I booked an appointment, and in the meantime, I just had some painkillers. They were not helping that much. At the traumatologist office, I was running a fever and had had some pain while going to the restroom. The traumatologist concluded that it was not a muscle problem. It was most likely some kind of complicated urinary tract infection.
He told me to go to the emergency department, and there they told me that I was lucky I didn’t get permanent kidney damage. They told me that I should always go to a general practitioner, and not straight to a specialist.
MS PETERS: I went to my general practitioner for some breathing problems I was having. I also had a fever, chills, and a hideous cough, so she told me that it was most likely to be a lung infection, and she needed an X-ray to be sure it was not something else. So she told me to go to the diagnostic imaging department to get it this done. So after the consultation, I tried to find the place, but I couldn’t find it at all. The sign said radiology and some other complicated words, but I had no idea where to go.
So I spent an hour trying to find this place, until a social worker explained to me that diagnostic imaging was a new name for radiology department, but the signs were not updated yet. How angry I was with myself for not knowing that. I was so close to giving up and going home. MS.
ROBERTS: What I remember is that I was recently diagnosed with a heart condition by my GP, but he recommended me to visit a cardiologist in order to get specific treatment. But I had no idea where one could be, and I didn’t ask, because I was afraid of the doctor thinking I was daft or something. If he said I should go to one, maybe I was supposed to already know one. So I went home to look for a cardiologist on the internet, and the one I found was in another city and only worked on weekdays, which was kind of difficult for me, because it meant I needed to get one day off of work, which was of course not paid.
So I went with this cardiologist for half a year or so, until my GP asked how it was going with Dr. Johnson. To which I replied, Dr. Johnson? Who’s that? My GP, astonished, said the cardiologist who works here on the weekends. And I felt so ashamed of myself. No one told me that, and I hadn’t asked.

Accessing the healthcare system, such as calling the correct health professional in the right situation or finding a healthcare facility, may seem intuitive for many people, especially when they have some experience of the healthcare field. However, many people struggle in this strange environment. In the video, you see patients who share some of these difficulties.

Meet three of our patients. Let’s listen to their stories.

Are we, too easily, assuming that everyone has sufficient access to the healthcare system?

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Working with Patients with Limited Health Literacy

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