Exploring Primary Care Non-Attendance: A Study of Low-Income Patients

Kyle A. Chapman, Stephanie S. Machado, Katie van der Merwe, Ashley Bryson, Dwight Smith

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Introduction: While evidence has been established on the impact of medical appointment non-attendance on the healthcare system and patient health, previous research has not focused on how poverty and rurality may influence patient experiences with non-attendance. This paper explores patient perceptions of non-attendance among those experiencing poverty in a rural U.S county to better inform providers to the context in which their patients make attendance-related decisions. Methods: Using a grounded theory approach, we conducted semi-structured interviews with 32 U.S. low-income adults in the rural Western U.S. who recurrently missed primary care appointments. We also used a questionnaire to assess individual characteristics related to health, resiliency, personal mastery, medical mistrust, life chaos, and adverse childhood experiences. Results: Participants identified 3 barriers to attending appointments: appointment disinterest, competing demands, and insufficient systems. Appointment disinterest stemmed from physical and mental health issues, misalignment between needs and treatment, and comfort with the provider. Competing demands included family responsibilities, employment, and relationships. Finally, participants reported that current scheduling and transportation systems were helpful but insufficient. To provide further context, participants also reported low overall health, moderate levels of medical mistrust, life chaos, and mastery, moderate to low resilience, and very a high number of adverse childhood experiences. Conclusions: Results point to the need for modified structures that allow low-income patients more control over their personal health and highlight opportunities for clinics to address patients’ lack of interest and fear in the medical encounter.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalJournal of Primary Care and Community Health
StatePublished - Mar 2022


  • missed appointments
  • no shows
  • non-attendance
  • poverty
  • primary care
  • trauma

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Community and Home Care
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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