Lin JM et al,"Barriers to Healthcare Utilization in Fatiguing Illness: A Population-Based Study in Georgia" BMC Health Serv Res. Jan 20 (2009) 9(1): 13. [Epub ahead of print] PMID: 1915458

[Note: This was a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) study, so they used the modified 1994 case definition for CFS.]

BACKGROUND: The purpose of this study was to determine the prevalence of barriers to healthcare utilization in persons with fatiguing illness and describe its association with socio-demographics, the number of health conditions, and frequency of healthcare utilization. Furthermore, we sought to identify what types of barriers interfered with healthcare utilization and why they occurred.

METHODS: In a cross-sectional population-based survey, 780 subjects, 112 of them with chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), completed a healthcare utilization questionnaire. Text analysis was used to create the emerging themes from verbatim responses regarding barriers to healthcare utilization. Multiple logistic regression was performed to examine the association between barriers to healthcare utilization and other factors.

RESULTS: Forty percent of subjects reported at least one barrier to healthcare utilization. Of 112 subjects with CFS, 55% reported at least one barrier to healthcare utilization. Fatiguing status, reported duration of fatigue, insurance, and BMI were significant risk factors for barriers to healthcare utilization. After adjusting for socio-demographics, medication use, the number of health problems, and frequency of healthcare utilization, fatiguing status remained significantly associated with barriers to healthcare utilization. Subjects with CFS were nearly 4 times more likely to forego needed healthcare during the preceding year than non-fatigued subjects while those with insufficient fatigue (ISF) were nearly 3 times more likely. Three domains emerged from text analysis on barriers to healthcare utilization: 1) accessibility; 2) knowledge-attitudes-beliefs (KABs); and, 3) healthcare system. CFS and reported duration of fatigue were significantly associated with each of these domains. Persons with CFS reported high levels of healthcare utilization barriers for each domain: accessibility (34%), healthcare system (25%), and KABs (19%). In further examination of barrier domains to healthcare utilization, compared to non-fatigued persons adjusted ORs for CFS having "accessibility", "KAB" and "Healthcare System" barrier domains decreased by 40%, 30%, and 19%, respectively.

CONCLUSIONS: Barriers to healthcare utilization pose a significant problem in persons with fatiguing illnesses. Study results suggested two-fold implications: a symptom-targeted model focusing on symptoms associated with fatigue; and an interactive model requiring efforts from patients and providers to improve interactions between them by reducing barriers in accessibility, KABs, and the healthcare system.