Background: Collection of disability status in electronic health records (EHRs) is critical to addressing the significant health care disparities experienced by patients with disabilities. Despite this, little evidence exists to inform implementation.
Methods: This pilot trial evaluated the implementation of collection of patients' disability status during primary care new patient registration by centralized call center staff. The study took place over six weeks at an academic hospital system in Colorado. Staff received a 30-minute training on how to ask and document disability status in the EHR. Completion rate of collection, fidelity, and concordance were assessed through chart reviews and recordings of patient registration calls. Focus groups with staff and phone interviews with patients assessed the experience of including disability screeners in patient registration.
Results: A total of 3,673 new patients were registered at one of the 53 primary care clinics during the study period. Completion of disability status in the EHR increased from 9.5% at baseline to 53.5% by the last week of the trial, which was then maintained for eight weeks. Challenges were identified in the recorded calls with fidelity of if and how the questions were asked. No patient complaints were reported, and patients reported no concerns regarding collection of disability status during interviews.
Conclusion: Documenting disability status during patient registration was effective and was not concerning to patients. To make initial steps to providing equitable care, efforts should be made to implement this type of screening universally across the clinical encounter.
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