Doctors Treating Disabled People Lack Confidence, Recent Study Finds

Many U.S. doctors treating disabled people are less confident than treating individuals without disabilities, according to a recent study.

This new study reflects on the lack of confidence and understanding U.S. physicians have about people with disabilities.

Doctors Treating Disabled People

Twenty-six percent of the U.S. population has some form of impairing disability. Nonetheless, a recent study finds many of the nation’s doctors treating disabled people say they don’t feel confident about providing quality care to their patients suffering with some type of disability

In 2019 and 2020, Harvard University Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital researchers surveyed more than 700 doctors from a variety of fields. 

The study published in Health Affairs found a wide-ranging lack of understanding among doctors about how people with disabilities live.

Professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and lead author of the study, Lisa Iezzoni, MD, MSc, said many doctors treating disabled people don’t understand the full lives of people with disabilities…which can have implication for their health care.

Dr. Iezzoni provided the following example:

“They don’t think people with disability are sexually active…and so they don’t talk to them about contraception, even though women may be at risk of unintended pregnancy,”

Dr. Iezzoni added what doctors treating disabled people should consider.

“All levels of medical education should include more training about disability, including disability cultural competence and etiquette. Training that provides greater empathy about patients’ daily lives, such as house calls, or standardized patients who have disability, might offer important insights.”

Living With Disabilities

Many doctors treating disabled people perceive them as having limited lives or happiness… although half of people with disabilities articulate that they have an excellent or good quality of life.

Only about 41 percent of the doctors treating disabled people surveyed in this recent study said they were very confident about their ability to provide the same quality of care to patients with disabilities that they do to those without them.

In addition, close to 57 percent of the surveyed doctors strongly agreed that they welcomed people with disabilities into their practices.

Disabilities are more common in older adults and the U.S…  Moreover, the senior population is expected to double by 2050.

The researchers of this study noted the following.

 “All physicians and health care providers can expect to see increasing volumes of patients with disability.”

People living with disabilities are at higher risk than the general population for a range of health issues.  This emphasizes their need for adequate health care services.

Additionally, nearly 12 percent of people with disabilities have heart disease, compared to close to 4 percent of those without disabilities. People with disabilities are also more likely to smoke tobacco, have diabetes, and may be obese. What’s more, they also face significant barriers to care.

According the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a third of adults with disabilities under age 65 lack a usual health care provider. Furthermore, a quarter of these disabled adults haven’t had a routine checkup in the past year.