Medical care is an integral part of life for those with disabilities, helping them to maintain good health, participate fully in activities, and access necessary prescription medications, medical equipment, specialty care, long-term care services through private or publicly funded insurance plans.
However, those with disabilities face many obstacles to getting health care. These include structural, financial and personal obstacles that can be challenging to overcome.
Accessibility is a fundamental aspect of health care for the disabled, including making sure medical facilities are accessible and removing architectural obstacles that prevent people with disabilities from gaining full and equal access to services.
To achieve these objectives, a multidisciplinary approach is needed that incorporates policy and structural changes within the healthcare system as well as research, education, and advocacy efforts to overcome any barriers experienced by people living with disabilities.
States should create mechanisms through which health insurers, managed care organizations, and other health plans guarantee physical and programmatic access for people with disabilities in providers (for instance hospitals, clinics, diagnostic centers, provider offices and laboratories). Failure to fulfill this promise should result in contract termination. In addition to that these contracts should include annual physical access surveys of providers as well as adherence to performance standards. These steps can help guarantee people receive top-notch medical care.
Communication is of the utmost importance in medical care. This requires using all your senses to capture someone’s attention, ask questions, listen intently and look them in the eye.
Communication skills are vital for all healthcare professionals, but particularly so for those working with people who have disabilities such as intellectual disability, hearing impairment, vision loss and cognitive issues.
A survey of physicians and caregivers revealed a variety of approaches used for communicating with patients who are deaf, hard of hearing, blind or have vision impairment, as well as those with intellectual disabilities. Physicians preferred remote sign language interpreters over in-person interpreters despite patients’ requests for in-person services.
Healthcare providers must be sensitive to the special communication needs of patients with disabilities and make accommodations where possible. This may include providing sign language interpreters or using visual aids when appropriate, but more importantly it requires an awareness of disability issues and cultural competency.
Preventative care is an integral component of medical care, enabling people to proactively take good care of their bodies by detecting problems early and finding solutions. Without proactive measures taken for health, people are more likely to develop issues that require expensive treatment or even hospitalization.
Under the Affordable Care Act, new private health plans must offer a range of preventive services recommended by the U.S. Preventative Services Task Force, such as evidence-based screenings for cancer, high cholesterol and high blood pressure.
Furthermore, the Affordable Care Act requires health insurance plans to eliminate cost-sharing for preventative screenings and other care. This is especially beneficial for seniors and Americans enrolled in Medicare or Medicaid who may find it difficult to afford the cost of preventive screenings or other necessary healthcare.
Despite advances in the healthcare industry, there remain numerous gaps and obstacles that prevent people with disabilities from accessing necessary health care. If not addressed, these issues have the potential to significantly affect both their health outcomes and quality of life.
Treatment of people with disabilities involves a complex interplay of factors. These include patient and provider perspectives and experiences, the type of health care services available in various settings, as well as application of appropriate standards of care.
Women with disability support services often encounter social misconceptions about their access to gynecological and breast examinations; screening for STDs; contraception; reproductive counseling and support; fertility consultation and care; obstetrics and delivery care; as well as information about menopause including osteoporosis, loss of libido, and insomnia. Furthermore, communication difficulties during office visits require interpreters in order to receive proper medical assistance.
These issues are further complicated by the fact that most people living with disabilities lack either health insurance or coverage for prescription medications, medical equipment and assistive devices, specialty care, long-term care and care coordination. This restricts access to essential services and contributes to greater health disparities between those who have disabilities and those without.