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Abstract

Free clinics provide free or reduced fee healthcare to individuals who lack access to primary care and are socio-economically disadvantaged. There has been a paucity of free clinic research with the few studies employing a quantitative design. The purpose of this study is to conduct an in-depth qualitative exploration of free clinic patients’ experience and perceptions of healthcare services, community resources, and the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA). Free clinic adult patients (n=35) participated in four focus groups between June and July 2014 (one Spanish group in June, and two English groups and one Spanish group in July) in a classroom of a free clinic. More than 80% of the participants were non-US born from Mexico, Central/South America, South or East Asia, Pacific Islands, or Western Europe. While participants reported being satisfied overall with free clinic services, they indicated that they desire more specialty services and health education programs. Furthermore, they reported being frustrated by long waiting times- both in the waiting room and when making an appointment, phone communication, and interpreter services. It is necessary to find effective ways to provide information about health education opportunities and the ACA to free clinic patients because participants appeared not to have received sufficient information about available resources. Health education programs for free clinic patients should not only focus on increasing knowledge but also changing behaviors.

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