During the current period of immigration to Western Europe, national healthcare systems are confronted with high numbers of asylum seekers with largely unknown health status. To improve care taking strategies, we assessed healthcare utilization in a large, representative cohort of newly arriving migrants consisting of n = 1533 residents of a reception center in Northern Germany in 2015. Most asylum seekers were young, male adults, and the majority came from the Eastern Mediterranean region. Overall, we observed a frequency of 0.03 visits to the onsite primary healthcare ward per asylum seeker and day of camp residence (IQR 0.0⁻0.07, median duration of residence 38.0 days, IQR 30.0⁻54.25). Female asylum seekers showed higher healthcare utilization rates than their male counterparts, and healthcare utilization was particularly low in asylum seekers in their second decade of life. Furthermore, a significant correlation between time after camp entrance and healthcare utilization behavior occurred: During the first week of camp residence, 37.1 visits/100 asylum seekers were observed, opposed to only 9.5 visits/100 asylum seekers during the sixth week of camp residence. This first data on healthcare utilization in a large, representative asylum seeker cohort entering Western Europe during the current crisis shows that primary care is most needed in the first period directly after arrival. Our dataset may help to raise awareness for refugee and migrant healthcare needs and to adapt care taking strategies accordingly.
Keywords: Europe; Germany; asylum seeker; doctor; healthcare; medical care; medical service; migrant; migration; refugee.