Dutch pragmatism

June 23, 2020

I think it will take a while until I familiarize myself with the peculiar protocols of the Dutch health system as well as to accept that a pragmatic approach towards patients might be, in fact, effective.

Yesterday I registered myself with a General Practioner which is a necessary first step after we get our health insurance in the Netherlands. The GP will have full control of our complaints and gets to decide whether we need to see a specialist or not. Such a thing doesn’t happen in Brazil. If I ever wanted to go to a dermatologist, I would simply go. If I had a sore throat which bothered me I would make an appointment directly with an otolaryngologist. It’s the opposite here: specialists can only be reachable after a GP’s “blessing”.

But what most surprised me was that my supposed first appointment took place over the phone, speaking for less than 10 minutes with the GP’s secretary! I understand they are trying to avoid physical contact due to Corona times, but still, as a first time between doctor and patient, I thought it could - or should - be something more like a face-to-face meeting.

A few questions were sufficient, according to the secretary, to have my health record in their system. I just can’t help but wonder: has the relation between doctor and patient always been distant in the Netherlands? Or should I say practical? Perhaps, though, I just grew up being spoilt by the Brazilian health system.


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