Decreasing health disparities for people with disabilities through improved communication strategies and awareness

Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2015 Mar 19;12(3):3301-16. doi: 10.3390/ijerph120303301.


Factors influencing access to health care among people with disabilities (PWD) include: attitudes of health care providers and the public, physical barriers, miscommunication, income level, ethnic/minority status, insurance coverage, and lack of information tailored to PWD. Reducing health care disparities in a population with complex needs requires implementation at the primary, secondary and tertiary levels. This review article discusses common barriers to health care access from the patient and provider perspective, particularly focusing on communication barriers and how to address and ameliorate them. Articles utilized in this review were published from 2005 to present in MEDLINE and CINAHL and written in English that focused on people with disabilities. Topics searched for in the literature include: disparities and health outcomes, health care dissatisfaction, patient-provider communication and access issues. Ineffective communication has significant impacts for PWD. They frequently believe that providers are not interested in, or sensitive to their particular needs and are less likely to seek care or to follow up with recommendations. Various strategies for successful improvement of health outcomes for PWD were identified including changing the way health care professionals are educated regarding disabilities, improving access to health care services, and enhancing the capacity for patient centered care.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Attitude of Health Personnel*
  • Awareness
  • Clinical Competence
  • Communication
  • Communication Barriers
  • Disabled Persons*
  • Health Services Accessibility*
  • Healthcare Disparities*
  • Humans
  • Patient Acceptance of Health Care
  • Patient Satisfaction
  • Professional-Patient Relations*