Improving access to healthcare for paediatric sickle cell disease patients: a qualitative study on healthcare professionals' views

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Abstract

Background: In well-resourced countries, comprehensive care programs have increased life expectancy of patients with sickle cell disease, with almost all infants surviving into adulthood. However, families affected by sickle cell disease are more likely to be economically disenfranchised because of their racial or ethnic minority status. As every individual child has the right to the highest attainable standard of health under the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, it is essential to identify both barriers and facilitators with regard to the delivery of adequate healthcare. Optimal healthcare accessibility will improve healthcare outcomes for children with sickle cell disease and their families. Healthcare professionals in the field of sickle cell care have first-hand experience of the barriers that patients encounter when it comes to effective care. We therefore hypothesised that these medical professionals have a clear picture of what is necessary to overcome these barriers and which facilitators will be most feasible. Therefore, this study aims to map best practises and lessons learnt in order to attain more optimal healthcare accessibility for paediatric patients with sickle cell disease and their families. Methods: Healthcare professionals working with young patients with sickle cell disease were recruited for semi-structured interviews. An interview guide was used to ensure the four healthcare accessibility dimensions were covered. The interviews were transcribed and coded. Based on field notes, initial codes were generated, to collate data (both barriers and solutions) to main themes (such as “transportation”, or “telecommunication”). Through ongoing thematic analysis, definitive themes were formulated and best practices were reported as recommendations. Quotations were selected to highlight or illustrate the themes and link the reported results to the empirical data. Results: In 2019, 22 healthcare professionals from five different university hospitals in the Netherlands were interviewed. Participants included (paediatric) haematologists, nurses and allied health professionals. Six themes emerged, all associated with best practices on topics related to the improvement of healthcare accessibility for children with sickle cell disease and their families. Firstly, the full reimbursement of invisible costs made by caregivers. Secondly, clustering of healthcare appointments on the same day to help patients seeing all required specialists without having to visit the hospital frequently. Thirdly, organisation of care according to shared care principles to deliver specialised services as close as possible to the patient’s home without compromising quality. Fourthly, optimising verbal and written communication methods with special consideration for families with language barriers, low literacy skills, or both. Fifthly, improving the use of eHealth services tailored to users’ health literacy skills, including accessible mobile telephone contact between healthcare professionals and caregivers of children with sickle cell disease. Finally, increasing knowledge and interest in sickle cell disease among key stakeholders and the public to ensure that preventive and acute healthcare measures are understood and safeguarded in all settings. Conclusion: This qualitative study describes the views of healthcare professionals on overcoming barriers of healthcare accessibility that arise from the intersecting vulnerabilities faced by patients with sickle cell disease and their families. The recommendations gathered in this report provide high-income countries with a practical resource to meet their obligations towards individual children under the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Original languageEnglish
Article number229
JournalBmc Health Services Research
Volume21
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 12 Mar 2021

Research programs

  • EMC MM-02-54-03

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