From the Director
I saw a patient about 10 years ago who was hearing-impaired and there was no interpreter available—so we wrote each other notes! While far from ideal and wildly inefficient, he was sufficiently pleased that he referred a number of his friends. That's probably because I took the time to find a way to communicate with him and pay attention to his neeeds and preferences.
This month's interview with Harvey Schwartz, PhD, AHRQ's senior advisor on priority populations, underscores the unique barriers to care faced by deaf individuals and other persons with disabilities. More than 54 million children and adults in the United States live with disabilities, including hearing impairment. Medical equipment that doesn't meet their needs and lack of health professionals trained in caring for patients with disabilities prevent these individuals from receiving the basic primary and preventive care others take for granted. This care includes getting weighed, preventive dental care, x rays, colonoscopies, pelvic exams, physical exams, and vision screenings. As a result, they are more likely to end up in the emergency department or hospital.
AHRQ's National Healthcare Disparities Report tracks many measures of relevance to individuals with disabilities or special health care needs. However, data on this priority population are limited, and AHRQ continues to work with Federal partners to improve reporting on health care quality for individuals with disabilities. We just released a report that examines measures of care outcomes for persons with disabilities. You can access the report at http://www.effectivehealthcare.ahrq.gov.
AHRQ continues to solicit research proposals for interventions that improve care, reduce disparities, and address gaps in health care research for patients with disabilities and other priority populations.
Carolyn Clancy, M.D.
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