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August 31, 2020

UVA Health Enhancing Support for Patients with Disabilities

Aerial view of hospital and other UVA Health buildings.

UVA Health is improving its procedures to better meet the needs of patients with disabilities. When individuals visit UVA Health for care, health system team members will ask more questions about patients’ disability status and accommodations.

A health equity steering committee has reviewed existing practices and recommended a more coordinated approach to understanding patients’ disability status and the types of accommodations they need.  

“We want to ensure we are doing everything possible to best serve our patients with disabilities when they see our care providers. Having a better understanding of what our patients need will help us provide higher levels of patient-centered care,” said Rupa S. Valdez, PhD, a UVA associate professor of Public Health Sciences and Engineering Systems and Environment who serves on the steering committee. “The 30th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act was an appropriate moment to take stock and expand the ways in which we serve our patients with disabilities.” 

As part of these efforts, all patients can expect to be asked more questions when they register and during their visits:

  • At registration: Patients will be asked what they need to make their visit easier. This can range from a wheelchair to American Sign Language interpretation or a magnifier for patients with low vision. 
  • During the visit: Care providers will ask patients a series of questions – based on questions asked as part of the U.S. Census – about their specific type of disability.  

Patients will also be able to voluntarily share information about their self-identified disability status through MyChart, UVA Health’s electronic medical record portal for patients. 

“These questions will not only help UVA care providers better serve patients in the moment,” but will also allow us to understand and address any disability-related disparities in the care we provide,” Valdez said. “This is particularly essential in a moment when national trends show inequities in COVID-19-related outcomes for people with disabilities.”

Based on recommendations from the steering committee, more data is also beginning to be centrally collected on patients’ race and ethnicity as well as sexual orientation and gender identity to help guide UVA Health’s efforts to improve health equity. 

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