Barriers to Seeking Medical Treatment in the United States

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Updated: May 15, 2023
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There are many barriers that people consider before seeking medical treatment. The first reason that comes to mind is the tremendous cost involved with visiting a doctor or hospital. Currently, in the United States, medical care is extremely expensive. This includes regular checkups, urgent care visits, and emergency rooms. The costs are grossly inflated and, even with insurance, can cost thousands of dollars for simple treatments. When a patient calls any doctor’s office for an appointment, the first question they are asked is what type of insurance they have. This is an immediate reminder that money comes before treatment. Once their insurance information is accepted, then they are considered for treatment. Doctor visits can be days or weeks away from their immediate need for treatment.

This can also cause a patient to reconsider the need for treatment. If the patient feels they require a more immediate appointment, they may choose to go to an urgent care facility. These are not full-blown hospitals, but they are very similar as they can treat most injuries and illnesses on a walk-in basis. The urgent care centers are also expensive, but not as expensive as hospitals. According to the Annals of Internal Medicine, the cost difference between urgent care and hospital emergency rooms is approximately four to one (Fay, 2019). When faced with large medical bills, many patients will opt to either postpone treatments or try self-medications to heal the ailments, reserving their funds for future larger emergencies.

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Another barrier many people may find hindering them from seeking medical care is the readily available information provided by the internet. While some of the information they may find could be helpful, it could also be very misleading. This online information could minimize or exaggerate their symptoms and ailments. It can provide a false sense of diminished urgency and cause the patients to overlook important symptoms. On the opposite, researching for a diagnosis can also lead to a wrong self-diagnosis that adds anxiety, fear, and worry. Once the patient is convinced that they will receive a more severe diagnosis, they often avoid seeking true medical attention in hopes of avoiding their perceived outcome.

For many people in the United States, a third barrier to avoiding seeking medical care is the lack of trust in conventional medical practice. Many new practices are available in other parts of the world that are not readily practiced as part of treatment in the United States. Most insurance companies do not accept holistic healing, acupuncture, or alternative treatment remedies. This leaves patients feeling excluded from their treatment options. Their personal health beliefs may hold that they do not want to be forced to take prescription medications and instead would like to investigate herbal alternatives. This is not something that their western doctors would consider as part of the primary medical treatment plan. This could cause frustration for many patients. If they do choose to seek alternative treatments, it would be at their full cost. This could cause them to choose minimally at the number of opportunities they do seek help or treatment.

Any of these reasons can cause patients to delay or avoid medical care and can contribute to potentially serious health problems. The longer a symptom or ailment continues, it can become severe and require more drastic measures to treat. A potential solution for improving help-seeking behaviors is to provide patients with a myriad of treatment options. Providing them with preventative treatment options at low or minimal cost could provide a more conducive environment with patients and medical professionals working together prior to medical inflictions. This could help build health-seeking behaviors as well as doctor/patient relationships.It seems that many people in the United States minimize their visits to medical professionals, mostly in part to the outrageous financial burden it can cause. They choose any alternative to try to self-diagnose and self-heal before they will visit a medical facility. Many insurance programs offer zero to minimal preventative health practices to be proactive in patients’ overall health. How many lifelong diseases could be stopped before they take root in people’s lives? Do you know anyone who, if they had been warned or taught earlier on in their life, could possibly have a different diagnosis today?

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Barriers to Seeking Medical Treatment in the United States. (2023, Mar 17). Retrieved from