Researchers identified unmet health care needs, access to health care, quality of health care, health care utilization and health care status as health care disparities in patients with developmental disabilities.
The findings were recently published in Annals of Family Medicine.
“There is a distinct need for studies that these health disparities in this vulnerable population throughout the lifespan,” Jessica A. Prokup, RN, BSN, of the Medical Student Research Program at The Ohio State University College of Medicine, told Healio Family Medicine in an interview. “We sought to bridge this gap in knowledge by comparing health indicators for people with and without developmental disabilities in four age groups: children, transition age, adults and older adults.”
Researchers performed a retrospective cross-sectional analysis of the 2015 Ohio Medicaid Assessment Survey, and considered information gleaned from 10,122 proxy interviews with adults most knowledgeable about the child’s situation and 42,876 interviews with adults.
Prokup and colleagues found that participants aged 31 to 64 years with developmental disabilities were less likely to have a primary care clinician that spent enough time with them compared with participants without developmental disabilities of the same age. Furthermore, participants with developmental disabilities in all age groups experienced barriers that hindered access to care.
Researchers also observed that participants aged 65 years and older with developmental disabilities were the least likely to have clinicians who explained things well at 83%, and that patients aged 0 to 18 years and 65 years and older with developmental disabilities demonstrated the greatest disparities in unmet health care needs.
In light of the findings, Prokup offered several suggestions for primary care physicians to improve their relationships with patients with developmental disabilities. These include:
•Conducting research on the most current guidelines for the patient’s diagnosis and also asking the patient and his or her parent (or guardian) for insight;
•Employing a care coordinator or social worker to help patients understand the health system and get the support they need;
•Working with the patient and their parent (or guardian) to ensure a physical exam is performed;
•Asking pediatric patients what their plan is for transitioning into adulthood and see if assistance is needed in finding adult providers;
•Determining what would make patients more comfortable during office visits, what barriers they experience when trying to obtain health care, and how the patient can attain greater independence; and
•Querying patients to see if they are receiving regular vision and dental care.
To further abate the health care that disparities that were identified, researchers suggested that medical schools integrate training on the disparities into their curriculum.
“We hope that by increasing awareness and improving medical education, primary care physicians can begin closing the gap and improving care one patient at a time,” Prokup said. – by Janel Miller
The researchers report no relevant financial disclosures.