Do you trust your doctor in the Netherlands?

Do you trust your doctor?

Surveys show that only 32% of internationals trust Dutch doctors and their decision-making.

The shocking statistic comes from the Healthcare for Internationals Network. Conversely, 85% of the Dutch population trust the doctor.

So, what’s going on – why this huge discrepancy? Listen to an interview with Dirk Jan Frijling from the healthcare network in the latest Here in Holland podcast.

                                        Lack of Trust

“Internationals do not trust Dutch doctors – basically only 30% trust doctors here and 40 to 50% explicitly say they don’t trust the diagnosis or treatment plan,” says Dirk Jan Frijling from the Healthcare for Internationals network.

This lack of trust can lead to some random decision making. Internationals leave the country for treatment and some leave  altogether.

“An Italian couple planning to have a baby decided to leave the Netherlands because they were convinced the baby wouldn’t survive. It might seem odd, but these horror stories are out there,” says Dirk Jan.

Reality Gap

So why is this such a disconnect? Dutch healthcare is amongst the best in the world. And yet there is a massive gap in between reality and belief when it comes to the international community.

“There are a number of reasons internationals give. First, things are different than they are used to at home. For example, in many countries you can see a specialist when you want to, but in the Netherlands you have to have a referral from the huisarts (GP),” says Dirk Jan.

“But it is not just about having information about the system, it is also something Dutch doctors need to be aware of and do better,” he adds.

The reluctance of Dutch doctors to prescribe antibiotics is another point of misunderstanding internationals flag up. As is having to explain their ailments first to the doctor’s assistant before being able to get an appointment.

Surveys conducted by the healthcare network together with expat organisation Access show that 34% of internationals consider leaving the Netherlands due to the healthcare system.

Seeing illness differently

A different cultural approach to illness adds to the perception gap. “In the Netherlands a doctor will often tell a patient to just go home and take a few days off knowing their the boss will accept this. But in many cultures people are worried about taking time off from work or studies and this is very alien to them.”

For many internationals the expectation is that medicine will be prescribed so they can carry on with work or study. But in the Netherlands the philosophy is often that the body will cure itself and all that is needed is rest. A few days off is no big deal.

The Healthcare for Internationals Network is a non-profit network of healthcare providers which aims to close this perception gap. It has already worked successfully with healthcare providers in Eindhoven. After training with doctors there the level of trust under internationals has risen to over 70%.

International friendly scheme

The scheme is now being rolled out across the country. The network plans to develop a system whereby people can see at a glance if their healthcare practice is ‘international-friendly.’

“What we are aiming at for internationals is the same level of trust as the Dutch population has – 85%. Healthcare providers who work with us will get a certificate and internationals will be able to see that. We are aiming to have 200 healthcare providers across the country working in this way,” says Dirk Jan Frijling.

The certificates will start to be rolled out at the beginning of 2019. The Healthcare for Internationals websitehas a detailed explanation of the Dutch healthcare system, including on how health insurance works, in English.

Here in Holland is the podcast in English about life with the Dutch – it’s produced by Andy Clark  – contact him via or Facebook – website – you can subscribe to get all the podcasts in via your iPhone podcast app or your Android app of choice.  Or follow on Soundcloud

The podcast is now also available on Spotify