There are currently 3 million immigrants from the former Soviet Union living in Germany. Most have comprehension problems due to their Russian-speaking origin, including in the context of medical care, making their primary care physicians feel uncertain, helpless, or even angry. They are therefore often seen as difficult.
A new study by Viktoria Bachmann et al. in Deutsches Ärzteblatt International (Dtsch Arztebl Int 2014; 111: 871-6) examines the reverse question: how treating physicians make these migrants feel. The authors questioned Russian-speaking migrants and native German patients about their expectations and experiences regarding doctor-patient contact.
Both the migrants and the German patients who were interviewed were satisfied with their current primary care physicians. However, migrants rated them as “fine” or “OK,” while native Germans were “very satisfied” with them. Three in four migrants reported difficulties with doctor-patient contact, such as linguistic problems or excessively “businesslike” behavior on the part of the physician. One in three believed they had not received treatment they needed; only one in seven Germans felt the same. Because of these individuals’ dissatisfaction with doctor-patient contact, more immigrants than Germans have switched primary care physician.
The authors recommend that primary care physicians be made aware of potential misunderstandings and take a flexible approach to immigrants’ culturally based expectations.