Lack of knowledge key to poor disabled access in primary care

Published on January 8, 2013 at 5:15 PM · No Comments

By Helen Albert, Senior medwireNews Reporter

Research suggests that a lack of knowledge about available accessible medical equipment among practice administrators makes primary healthcare difficult to access for patients with disabilities.

"Practice administrators' lack of knowledge of accessible medical equipment emphasizes the need not only for more education about the availability of accessible equipment but also about the importance of accessible equipment for their patients with disabilities and for physicians who provide them care," says study author Jennifer Pharr, from the University of Nevada Las Vegas, USA.

As reported in Disability and Health, Pharr surveyed 63 primary care administrators between December 2011 and January 2012 to investigate their level of knowledge of accessible medical equipment designed to be used both with disabled and nondisabled patients.

She found that although the participants had worked as medical administrators for an average of 14.9 years, less than half (46.0%) of them knew that accessible equipment existed and only 25.4% knew what types of accessible equipment were available.

Pharr also found that there was a significant positive correlation between the knowledge level of the administrators and the number of pieces of accessible equipment available in the clinics in which they were employed.

"Previous research has identified inaccessible medical equipment as a barrier to health care services encountered by people with disabilities," explains Pharr. For example, many examination tables cannot be lowered to the height of a wheel chair, few scales can accommodate a wheelchair, and many mammography machines are inaccessible for women with disabilities.

High cost may be an issue when considering whether to purchase accessible equipment for a primary care clinic, she notes. However, as only a small percentage of the administrators knew that such equipment existed, no conclusive results about cost concerns could be ascertained.

"Increasing practice administrators' knowledge of accessible medical equipment may be an important first step in removing this barrier to health care," concludes Pharr.

"This could lessen both the unmet health care needs experienced by patients with disabilities and the resulting health disparities among this group."

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