Medical facilities not accommodating for patients with mobility impairments

Many medical practices cannot accommodate patients with mobility impairment, according to a study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine.

The study looked at 256 medical practices in Atlanta, Dallas, Houston, Portland, Ore. and Boston. The medical practices were divided among two subspecialties: those where transfer from a wheelchair to an examination table is required for adequate care (endocrinology, gynecology, orthopedic surgery, rheumatology and urology) and those where transfer might not be necessary (otolaryngology, ophthalmology and psychiatry).

The researchers called each practice and attempted to make an appointment for a fictional patient who was obese, partially paralyzed on one side of the body, used a wheelchair and was unable to self-transfer from the chair to examination table. They also said that the patient would not be able to bring a family member to assist with the transfer.

In total, 56 practices (22%) could not accommodate the patient. Of these practices, nine said that their building was inaccessible and 47 said that they could not transfer the patient to the examination table. They also found that of the practices that required transfer for adequate care, only 22 (9%) reported using special equipment for transfers, such as height-adjustable tables and mechanical lifts. Gynecology had the highest rate of inaccessible practices (44%).

“Many subspecialists reported inability to accommodate a patient in a wheelchair,” the authors wrote in the study abstract. “Improved awareness is needed about the Americans with Disabilities Act requirements and the standards of care for patients with mobility impairment.”

For more information:

Lagu T. Ann Intern Med. 2013; 158(6):441-446.

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