Familienmedizin und medizinische Wissenschaftsforschung

Familienmedizin und medizinische Wissenschaftsforschung
Offener Zugang

ISSN: 2327-4972


The Informal Caregiver: A Qualitative Assessment of Needs and Requirements

Schultz H, Higham J and Michael Schultz

Background: The centralisation of many medical services to hospitals in larger centres, as well as the cost consciousness of patients and medical insurers alike, has led to an increased necessity to travel nationally to seek medical treatment. This phenomenon is observed in New Zealand and world-wide. This is not unlike international medical tourism but research into the needs and requirements of the informal caregiver, accompanying the patient, has been neglected.

Methods: Informal caregivers (IC), accompanying a patient for 2 or more days to receive medical treatment were recruited from private and public medical service providers in Dunedin, New Zealand. A semi-structured interview producing in-depth information to profile the visitor demographics and to explore the nature of their visit and their experiences was constructed. The qualitative material was screened for similarities and contradictions and analysed taking the situation of the support person and the environment into account.

Results: Five participants were ICs of patients in private treatment; one participant accompanied a patient to a publicly funded treatment. ICs stayed for 2 days to 5 weeks. In the private sector no assistance was offered to help with basic requirements such as travel and accommodation although this was funded and therefore arranged for in the public sector. All IC critically missed interaction with other IC and most were interested in local attractions.

Conclusions: This research shows that service provision for medical tourists at least in the private health care sector is solely focussed on the patient while the basic needs and requirements of the IC are neglected. This leads to social isolation and creates a barrier to travel. This fact offers an opportunity for local tourism operators to engage with health care providers to gain access to this niche market and aid the recovery process of the patient by allowing the IC to concentrate on the support that is expected.