Health care system accessibility
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BACKGROUND: People who are deaf use health care services differently than the general population; little research has been carried out to understand the reasons.
OBJECTIVE: To better understand the health care experiences of deaf people who communicate in American Sign Language.
DESIGN: Qualitative analyses of focus group discussions in 3 U.S. cities.
PARTICIPANTS: Ninety-one deaf adults who communicate primarily in American Sign Language.
MEASUREMENTS: We collected information about health care communication and perceptions of clinicians’ attitudes. We elicited stories of both positive and negative encounters, as well as recommendations for improving health care.
RESULTS: Communication difficulties were ubiquitous. Fear, mistrust, and frustration were prominent in participants’ descriptions of health care encounters. Positive experiences were characterized by the presence of medically experienced certified interpreters, health care practitioners with sign language skills, and practitioners who made an effort to improve communication. Many participants acknowledged limited knowledge of their legal rights and did not advocate for themselves. Some participants believed that health care practitioners should learn more about sociocultural aspects of deafness.
CONCLUSIONS: Deaf people report difficulties using health care services. Physicians can facilitate change to improve this. Future research should explore the perspective of clinicians when working with deaf people, ways to improve communication, and the impact of programs that teach deaf people self-advocacy skills and about their legal rights.
- Health care system accessibility
Journal of General Internal Medicine
Volume 21, Issue 3 , pp 260-266
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- sign language
- physician-patient relations
- hearing impaired persons
- Industry Sectors
- Author Affiliations
- 1. Departments of Psychiatry and Pediatrics, University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, Philadelphia, PA, USA
- 2. Family Medicine Research Programs, University of Rochester Department of Family Medicine, 1381 South Avenue, 14620, Rochester, NY
- 3. Department of Family Medicine, University of Michigan Health System, Ann Arbor, MI, USA
- 4. Deafness and Family Communication Center, Children’s Seashore House of The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, PA, USA