The observed visits to health care providers are an outcome of patients' health care decision-making process. Unlike the visits, this process is not observable. The paper first outlines this process, and then presents patterns of patients' visits to health care providers in a particular rural area in Kenya. The visit patterns are shown to vary greatly according to type of illness and to the stage of the illness. The paper has two main results. The first result is that in the study area, the majority of the patients sought medical treatment outside the ‘free’ government health care system. The other finding is that for a given illness episode, there is a very high likelihood of a patient consulting more than one provider for advice or treatment.
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