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Feds Look To Make Health Care More Accessible


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People with disabilities have long complained of inequities at the doctor’s office due to everything from inaccessible equipment to the physicians themselves. Now, the federal government is taking steps toward leveling the playing field.

Under new standards implemented Monday by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, most government health surveys will now be required to collect more detailed information about race, ethnicity, sex, primary language and disability status.

The move, which was mandated under the 2010 health care reform law, is an effort to better understand differences in the quality of health care that people receive. Moreover, health officials say that better data will enable them to identify problems and improve care.

“It is our job to get a better understanding of why disparities occur and how to eliminate them,” Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said in announcing the new effort. “Today, through these new standards, we are providing a new set of powerful tools to help us achieve our vision of a nation free of disparities in health and health care.”

Though anecdotal evidence has long suggested that people with disabilities face hurdles in the health care system, there’s been little research to back up the claims. In fact, a recent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report on health disparities indicated that data on people with disabilities existed for just eight of the 22 topics studied, preventing researchers from offering a full picture on the demographic.

The new standards are expected to go a long way toward closing this information gap, health officials said.

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Comments (3 Responses)

  1. taniamorse85 says:

    This is certainly a positive step. It can be so hard to find an accessible doctor’s office. I was quite fortunate finding my current doctor. Medi-Cal (CA Medicaid) went through major changes this year, forcing me to change doctors. I was given a directory of approved doctors, which had excellent information. This information included accessibility info. I was able to find a doctor who not only welcomed patients with disabilities, but also was entirely accessible. In fact, there are things in the office I didn’t even know existed, such as exam tables that can be lowered to make for easier transfers into and out of a wheelchair. When I am able to get off of Medi-Cal, I hope to be able to stay with this doctor.

  2. says:

    You are very lucky. I have always had issues with accessibility when it comes to doctors offices. As a wheelchair user it is imperative that I keep a physiatrist at the very center of my personal network. Before the disaster which came to be known as Hurricane Katrina and its ensuing aftermath, I had seen the same physiatrist for the entire 14 years of my injury and his office was located inside of a fairly new and up to date university medical center. But, his office had absolutely NO accessible examination tables. Despite my repeated request no change was ever made. After shopping around for another doctor I was dismayed to find that the biggest neglectors of ADA legislation were the professionals in whom their care was entrusted. After evacuating to Dallas during the storm I came to realize that inaccessibility among doctors offices was pretty much the norm. However, after some prompting, my physiatrist in Dallas finally removed the static exam table she once used and replaced it with a fully electric hospital bed. Now that I’ve moved back home I am back to square one. My doctor is basically just a prescription provider rather a health care provider.

  3. janet harris says:

    i totally agree. im a person with a disability. we need more accessability equipment in medical offices, hospitals, and clinics. by the way i became an inventor and getting ready to put my first device on the market. it will help out the medicals offices a great deal. i would love to speak on this and show my first device.

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