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Changes in health-seeking behaviours and challenges in accessing care have been reported during the COVID-19 pandemic. This qualitative study examines Australian experiences related to healthcare access during the early months of the pandemic.
The study aimed to identify key areas of concern as well as opportunities for services to prevent, manage and treat health concerns when normal access was disrupted. Fifty-nine semi-structured interviews were analysed. Participants were interviewed between August and December in 2020 over telephone or Zoom and were located across Australia. Rapid identification of themes with an audio recordings technique was used to generate themes from the data.
Participants described a variety of influences on their health-seeking behaviours, resulting in decisions to delay care or being unable to reach care. Many individuals accessed health services via telehealth and offered a range of perceptions and views on its effectiveness and appropriateness.
The findings illustrate that maintenance of health and access to healthcare and psychosocial support were compromised for some individuals, leading to negative impacts on both mental and physical health. This highlights the need to provide mechanisms to facilitate a person’s ability to access care in a timely manner during a pandemic.