Background: Little is known about how migrants adapt to first-world public health systems. In Norway, patients are assigned a registered general practitioner (RGP) to provide basic care and serve as gatekeeper for other medical services.
Objectives: To explore determinants of migrant compliance with the RGP scheme and obstacles that migrants may experience.
Methods: Individuals in leadership positions within migrant organizations for the 13 largest migrant populations in Norway in 2008 participated in this qualitative study. Semi-structured interviews, with migrants serving as key informants, were used to elucidate possible challenges migrant patients face in navigating the local primary health-care system. Conversations were structured using an interview guide covering the range of challenges that migrant patients meet in the health-care system.
Results: According to informants, integration into the RGP scheme and adequacy of patient-physician communication varies according to duration of stay in Norway, the patient's country of origin, the reason for migration, health literacy, intention to establish permanent residence in Norway, language proficiency, and comprehension of information received about the health system. Informants noted as obstacles: doctor-patient interaction patterns, conflicting ideas about the role of the doctor, and language and cultural differences. In addressing noted obstacles, one strategy would be to combine direct intervention by migrant associations with indirect intervention via the public-health system.
Conclusion: Our results will augment the interpretation of forthcoming quantitative data on migrant integration into the public-health system and shed light on particular obstacles.