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.