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Access barriers to healthcare for people living with disabilities



This study elucidated healthcare access barriers to receiving adequate services among adults with disabilities. In particular, we utilized community focus groups to contrast urban and rural communities and target improvement in educational services, healthcare policy reform, and outreach programs for this underserved patient population.

Subject and methods

Focus groups and interviews were conducted with adults living with a wide range of physical and intellectual disabilities in 12 counties in the Mid-Michigan area. Data were analyzed using narrative coding and conceptualization techniques to identify emergent themes grounded in the data.


Three major themes emerged from the data: (1) a lack of patient-centeredness that impedes the quality of care; (2) inadequate communication that marginalizes patients within the clinical encounter; (3) accessibility barriers that interfere with navigating the healthcare system.


Access to healthcare for people living with disabilities represents a significant challenge, especially in a rural setting. Although improved technology may make healthcare more efficient, the majority of patients with disabilities faced access barriers and implicated deficits in “patient-centered care” as a factor in poor health care experiences.

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Fig. 1


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We would like to thank the Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Michigan Foundation for funding this project and the Disability Network of Mid-Michigan for their support and partnership. We would also like to thank Megan Schluentz for her assistance in data support and analysis.


This research was funded by the Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Michigan Foundation Student Research Award.

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Correspondence to Natalie Hamilton.

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Conflict of interest

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.

Ethics approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participant were in accordance with ethical standards. The project was considered IRB exempt and approved by the Central Michigan University Institutional Review Board.

Consent to participate

Informed consent was obtained prior to participation in the focus groups for all individual participants included in the study.

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Fig. 2
figure 2

Focus Group Agenda

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Hamilton, N., Olumolade, O., Aittama, M. et al. Access barriers to healthcare for people living with disabilities. J Public Health (Berl.) 30, 1069–1077 (2022).

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  • Disability
  • Accessibility
  • Health equity
  • Patient-centeredness