The increase in immigration to Europe has led to an increasing demand for information about healthcare needs and costs of vulnerable migrant populations, but few data based on actual demand for healthcare services and related costs exist.
In this single-centre retrospective register study, we examined the reasons for encounter and diagnoses, service use and costs of healthcare among patients at a voluntary clinic for migrants in an irregular situation in Helsinki, Finland in 2016. ICPC-2 classification and unit costs for primary healthcare in Finland were used as a basis for the cost estimation.
546 patient visits accounted for 620 ICPC-2 coded reasons for encounter, diagnoses and process codes. The most common health problems were teeth/gum disease (10%), acute upper respiratory infection (5%) and oesophageal disease (3%). Visits seldom led to complementary investigations (2%), follow-up visit to the clinic (5%) or referral to public healthcare (11%). The total cost of treatment, excluding dental health costs, was 39 547 euros, or 71 euros per visit.
Migrants in an irregular situation present with a variety of health concerns, the majority of which can be treated in a basic primary healthcare facility. The cost of healthcare was relatively low, as most of the complaints could be treated with simple means. More research is needed to understand the health and cost benefits of extending public healthcare services for migrants in an irregular situation beyond emergency care.