People with physical and sensory disabilities face important challenges in obtaining high-quality health care. We examined whether persons who are blind or have low vision, who are deaf or hard of hearing, or who have mobility impairments or manual dexterity problems are satisfied with the technical and interpersonal aspects of their care.
By using a 1996 nationally representative survey of 16 403 community-dwelling elderly and disabled Medicare beneficiaries, we identified persons with disabling conditions. Adjusted odds ratios (AORs) and 95% confidence intervals (CIs) controlled for demographic characteristics and managed care membership in predicting dissatisfaction with 12 dimensions of care.
Of an estimated 33.58 million noninstitutionalized Medicare beneficiaries, 64.1% (an estimated 21.51 million) reported at least 1 potential disability and 29.5% (an estimated 9.89 million) reported more than 1 potential disability. Roughly 98% of people with and without disabilities believed their physicians were competent and well trained. But statistically significantly more people with disabilities reported dissatisfaction with care for 10 of the 12 quality dimensions. Persons reporting any major disability were more likely to be dissatisfied with physicians completely understanding their conditions (AOR, 2.4; 95% CI, 1.9-3.1), physicians completely discussing patients' health problems (AOR, 2.4; 95% CI, 1.9-2.9), physicians answering all patients' questions (AOR, 2.3; 95% CI, 1.7-3.1), and physicians often seeming hurried (AOR, 1.6; 95% CI, 1.4-1.9).
Persons with disabilities generally reported positive views of their care, although they were significantly more likely to report poor communication and lack of thorough care. These findings held regardless of the disabling condition. Thoughtful systematic approaches are required to improve communication and to reduce time pressures that might compromise the health care experiences of people with disabilities.