Research appearing in the Journal for Healthcare Quality (JHQ) suggests individuals with disabilities may face a greater risk for experiencing healthcare disparities and differences in diagnoses, treatments, and outcomes.

Megan A. Morris, Center for Healthcare Studies at Northwestern University, Chicago, PhD, MPH, CCC-SLP, states that, “People with disabilities are a diverse population and it is difficult to fully capture their experiences within the healthcare system.”

Morris adds that following the passage of the Affordable Care Act, the Department of Health and Human Services published six required disability status questions, yet “they fulfill agency needs and are not designed to gather disability data within a healthcare provider organization,” Morris says, noting that the questions may be limited as they target impairments and limitations and do not include environmental and personal factors.

A news release from the National Association for Healthcare Quality provides an example of this, noting that it is key to identify patients with communication or learning disabilities as they may have difficulty in communicating with physicians or with overall health literacy.

According to the release, the study suggests healthcare providers develop questions that encompass a wide range of potential disabilities and produce actionable data, which can be used for developing quality improvement initiatives. Study authors also recommend involving individuals with disabilities and their families in developing questions that would help integrate a broader perspective in which environmental and social factors are considered; this would in turn help pinpoint potential disparities.

By pinpointing these potential disparities in care of patients with disabilities, researchers say, this would enable provider organizations to establish effective quality improvement initiatives and eliminate disability disparities.

Source(s): Science Daily, National Association for Healthcare Quality