Study Finds Health Care System Fails Adults with Cognitive Disabilities



A study by Rutgers University has found that people with cognitive disabilities, such as autism and memory loss, are less satisfied with their healthcare than the general population. The study, which analyzed patient-reported experiences from over 22,000 adults, found that individuals with cognitive disabilities rated their healthcare experiences significantly lower, highlighting issues with patient-provider communication. The study’s lead author suggests addressing the issue through incorporating disability competencies into medical education and policy changes that account for the increased time and effort needed for the care of disabled patients.

Cognitive Disabilities and Health Care Satisfaction: A Study

Individuals with cognitive disabilities, including autism and memory loss, express less satisfaction with their health care compared to the general population, finds a study conducted by a Rutgers researcher.

The study, featured in the Disability and Health Journal, explored the experiences of a national sample of adults with cognitive disabilities during their medical care and the factors contributing to their satisfaction levels.

Elizabeth Stone, Rutgers Center for Health Services Research faculty, reports that individuals with cognitive disabilities felt their providers did not listen to them, failed to explain things in an understandable manner, did not allocate sufficient time, and lacked respect for their input.

Previous research has highlighted barriers to accessing quality health care for individuals with cognitive disabilities like autism spectrum disorder and Down syndrome, with a focus on types of care or provider perspectives instead of the patient’s experiences.

The recent study analyzed the experiences of over 22,000 adults, both with and without cognitive disabilities, regarding their interaction with health care services. The data revealed a gap in satisfaction levels between those with and without disabilities.

Those with cognitive disabilities rated their overall satisfaction with health care services significantly lower than the general population, reporting poorer experiences during health care encounters. Poor patient-provider communication was identified as a factor contributing to adverse outcomes for patients.

Stone proposed addressing this issue through incorporating disability competencies into medical education and implementing policies like enhanced reimbursement to reflect the increased time and effort required for attending to disabled patients. Further, she suggested that patients should be proactive in preparing for health care appointments and requesting accommodations to enhance their experiences.

Future research should explore how experiences with health care vary across the spectrum of cognitive disabilities and other disabilities and identities, the researchers recommended.

More information:
Elizabeth M. Stone et al, Experiences of health care services among people with cognitive disabilities and mental health conditions, Disability and Health Journal (2023). DOI: 10.1016/j.dhjo.2023.101547

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