Journal of General Internal Medicine

, Volume 10, Issue 3, pp 133–137 | Cite as

Improvements in preventive care and communication for deaf patients

Results of a novel primary health care program
  • Theodore G. MacKinney
  • Donna Walters
  • Geoffrey L. Bird
  • Ann Butler Nattinger
Original Articles


OBJECTIVE: To test the hypothesis that profoundly deaf persons would have better preventive care compliance and improved physician communication if enrolled in a primary care program providing American Sign Language (ASL) interpreters.

DESIGN: A case-cohort community-based study. The authors had ASL-fluent research assistants interview 90 randomly selected patients (the cases) enrolled in a unique primary care program for the deaf (Deaf Services Program), which provided full-tune ASL interpreters and subsidized health care costs for some patients. Eighty-five deaf controls were friends of the cases drawn from the community.

RESULTS: The cases were poorer and less often married than were the controls, but other baseline characteristics were similar. The cases were more likely (p<0.05) to report receiving within the preceding three years Pap tests (90% vs 72%), mammography (86% vs 53%), and rectal examinations (72% vs 25%), but not breast examinations (76% vs 71%, p=0.7). The cases were more likely than the controls to report receiving counseling in ASL for psychiatric and substance abuse problems (49% vs 5%, p<0.001). Although only 18% of the controls were fluent in written English, 67% of them used written notes to communicate with their physicians. Twenty percent of the controls used ASL interpreters compared with 84% of the cases (p<0.001). More cases than controls were moderately or extremely satisfied with communication with their physicians (92% vs 42%, p<0.001).

CONCLUSION: Deaf persons enrolled in a primary care program that included full-time interpreters were more likely to use ASL, were more satisfied with physician communications, and had improved preventive care outcomes.

Key words

deaf services prevention physician-patient communication patient compliance 


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Copyright information

© Society of General Internal Medicine 1995

Authors and Affiliations

  • Theodore G. MacKinney
    • 1
  • Donna Walters
    • 2
  • Geoffrey L. Bird
    • 3
  • Ann Butler Nattinger
    • 1
  1. 1.the Medical College of WisconsinMilwaukee
  2. 2.Baltimore Medical Services, Inc.Baltimore
  3. 3.Georgetown University Medical SchoolWashington, DC.
  4. 4.Division of General Internal MedicineMilwaukee

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