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Dutch healthcare system

The most important difference between medical practice in the Netherlands and that of many other countries, is the predominant role of the huisarts (general practitioner). They act as a gatekeeper to the wider Dutch healthcare system. They treat patients for basic problems and can answer most of your general health questions. He/she will be also perform, for example, standard gynaecological or paediatric examinations. They are also the ones to provide referrals when further medical care is needed, such as hospitalisation, maternity care and access to other specialists. Without this referral access to specialists is restricted, and may not be reimbursed by your health insurance. We cannot emphasise enough the advantage of finding a huisarts BEFORE you need one,

Non-interventionist approach

Another difference you may experience, or be advised about by others, is the non-interventionist approach to medical and maternity care in the Netherlands. One example is the reluctance of doctors (and some dentists) to prescribe drugs. Traditionally, it was common to give birth at home, and without pain relief. While this is still an option, it is no longer the trend and more alternatives are available and possible. Finally, there are also far fewer preventative healthcare checks in the Netherlands, as compared to other countries.

The doctor-patient relationship

In some countries, patients are hesitant to question medical opinions. In the Netherlands, it is common for patients to make their voices heard. One of the most important things to remember is to be your own advocate. Do not hesitate to ask questions about a diagnosis or treatment. You may also ask for a second opinion, but, know it is not common practice to do so and you may face some resistance to this.