One in Five Specialty Physician Practices Fails to Ensure Access for Disabled Patients
March 27, 2013 | Strategic Insights for Health System
Nearly one in five physician practices was unequipped to handle patients with disabilities and could not schedule the patients for appointments, according to a study designed to evaluate access to subspecialists for patients with mobility impairment. For the study, reported in the March 19, 2013, Annals of Internal Medicine, researchers posed as medical students or resident physicians trying to make an appointment for a fictional patient in a wheelchair. If the practice could not accommodate the patient, the caller was instructed to ask for an explanation. The investigators contacted 256 subspecialty practices (e.g., endocrinology, gynecology, orthopedic surgery, urology) in four U.S. cities. Of the practices contacted, 22% reported that they could not accommodate a patient in a wheelchair who is unable to self-transfer from a wheelchair, 18% said they could not transfer a patient from a wheelchair to an examination table, and 4% said the building was inaccessible. Several practices appeared willing to use unsafe methods to transfer the patients, such as manually transferring the patient from a wheelchair to the exam table. Practices specializing in gynecology had the highest rate of inaccessibility (44%).