Our friends at SafeMinds featured a disturbing study this week. Disturbing but not at all surprising to most of us. Medical Doctors have poor attitudes about their patients with disabilities. And they don't trust their ability to treat them. I have three adult daughters with full autism. Pediatricians were never openly disdainful of my girls, but they glossed over medical care constantly. For instance, we NEVER had the hearing or vision tests routinely offered. Why? Because my girls could not answer. Not one tried to find a way to make sure my kids had this important health. And they often ignored me when I told them what was going on. When they listened, they would tell me outright that they had no answers. Our most recent pediatrician's office just sent us the "too old" letter for my youngest, who is 20. I liked Dr. S. I'll miss her. Her Dad was a pediatrician, and she always took my concerns seriously. She never made me feel like a whackadoodle. She spoke directly to my daughter as if she was in the room on the table. We have a primary care doc for my older daughters. He's my doc too. He's terrific and kind and listens. Each question I have had, he opens his laptop and Googles it. He doesn't know a single thing about autism. He should be paying me a fee for the continued education credits. I ask, he delivers. Not bad. But I won't always be at every visit with my daughters forever and ever. And that's what we are all going to run into moving into adulthood. I'm looking for a new primary care doctor for the four of us. Someone younger, which makes me nervous, as I think so many of the young docs are indoctrinated into really hating thinkers like me. But, my girls will need basic care for decades to come, and I'd like a younger doc who will be in practice for 30 or more years. To make matters worse, many people with disabilities like autism are on Medicaid. And few adult-practice MDs take Medicaid because it pays so poorly. Our kids are double screwed. What's your experience to date?
Approximately 12% of Americans have at least one disability. Growing evidence shows that individuals living with disabilities experience healthcare disparities compared to the general population. A new study published in the journal Health Affairs was the first of its kind to examine doctors’ attitudes on treating people with disabilities. The research involved surveying 714 practicing physicians. Sadly, the study’s initial finding revealed that 82% of the physician respondents believed that people with significant disabilities experience a worse quality of life than those without disabilities. Two other depressing statistics came out of this research. Only 40% of doctors were confident they could provide the same quality of care to a patient with a disability than they could for those without. Additionally, just a mere 56% “strongly agreed” that they welcome people with disabilities into their practice even though the Americans with Disabilities Act requires equal access to healthcare. The study’s lead author, Lisa I. Iezzoni, a health care policy researcher at both Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital, was not surprised that most doctors had negative attitudes about patients with disabilities. However, she reported to be shocked by the magnitude of physicians stigmatizing views. Iezzoni along with the other study’s authors suggest that adding disability training in medical school could be an excellent way to change perceptions about treating those with disabilities. Adding this curriculum may help correct healthcare disparities for this fragile population in the future.