Strategies for Managing the Costs of Chronic Illness in the Context of Limited Financial Resources: A Qualitative Study in Dominican Persons With Arthritis

Arthritis Care Res (Hoboken). 2019 Oct;71(10):1379-1386. doi: 10.1002/acr.23742. Epub 2019 Aug 13.


Objective: Persons who reside in low- and middle-income countries often have insufficient resources to pay for treatments prescribed for their medical conditions. The aim of this study was to determine, using qualitative methods, how patients with arthritis in the Dominican Republic manage the costs associated with chronic illnesses.

Methods: We conducted individual interviews with 17 Dominican adults with advanced arthritis who were undergoing total knee replacement or total hip replacement at a hospital in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. Interviewers followed a moderator's guide with questions pertaining to the financial demands of arthritis treatment and the strategies participants used to pay for treatments. Interviews were audio recorded, transcribed verbatim, and translated into English. We used thematic analysis to identify salient themes.

Results: The thematic analysis suggested that health system factors (such as the extent of reimbursement for medications available in the public health care system) along with personal factors (such as disposable income) shaped individuals' experiences of managing chronic illness. These systemic and personal factors contributed to a sizeable gap between the cost of care and the amount most participants were able to pay. Participants managed this resource gap using a spectrum of strategies ranging from acceptance (or, "making do with less") to resourcefulness (or, "finding more"). Participants were aided by strong community bonds and religiously oriented resilience.

Conclusion: This qualitative study illuminates the range of strategies Dominican individuals with limited resources use to obtain health care and manage chronic illness. The findings raise hypotheses that warrant further study and could help guide provider-patient conversations regarding treatment adherence.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Arthritis / economics*
  • Arthritis / epidemiology
  • Arthritis / therapy
  • Arthroplasty, Replacement, Hip / economics
  • Arthroplasty, Replacement, Hip / methods
  • Arthroplasty, Replacement, Knee / economics
  • Arthroplasty, Replacement, Knee / methods
  • Chronic Disease / economics*
  • Chronic Disease / epidemiology
  • Chronic Disease / therapy
  • Dominican Republic / epidemiology
  • Female
  • Health Care Costs* / standards
  • Health Resources / economics*
  • Health Resources / standards
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Qualitative Research*