Why do patients receive care from a short-term medical mission? Survey study from rural Guatemala

Micaela M. Esquivel, Joy C Chen, Russell K. Woo, Nora Siegler, Francisco A. Maldonado-Sifuentes, Jehidy S. Carlos-Ochoa, Andy R. Cardona-Diaz, Tarsicio Uribe-Leitz, Dennis Siegler, Thomas G. Weiser, George P. Yang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Background Hospital de la Familia was established to serve the indigent population in the western highlands of Guatemala and has a full-time staff of Guatemalan primary care providers supplemented by short-term missions of surgical specialists. The reasons for patients seeking surgical care in this setting, as opposed to more consistent care from local institutions, are unclear. We sought to better understand motivations of patients seeking mission-based surgical care. Methods Patients presenting to the obstetric and gynecologic, plastic, ophthalmologic, general, and pediatric surgical clinics at the Hospital de la Familia from July 27 to August 6, 2015 were surveyed. The surveys assessed patient demographics, surgical diagnosis, location of home, mode of travel, and reasons for seeking care at this facility. Results Of 252 patients surveyed, 144 (59.3%) were female. Most patients reported no other medical condition (67.9%, n = 169) and no consistent income (83.9%, n = 209). Almost half (44.9%, n = 109) traveled >50 km to receive care. The most common reasons for choosing care at this facility were reputation of high quality (51.8%, n = 130) and affordability (42.6%, n = 102); the least common reason was a lack of other options (6.4%, n = 16). Conclusions Despite long travel distances and the availability of other options, reputation and affordability were primarily cited as the most common reasons for choosing to receive care at this short-term surgical mission site. Our results highlight that although other surgical options may be closer and more readily available, reputation and cost play a large role in choice of patients seeking care.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)160-166
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Surgical Research
StatePublished - Jul 1 2017
Externally publishedYes


  • Guatemala
  • Patient survey
  • Short-term mission


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