Adults with Disabilities Need Accessible and Responsive Telehealth Care
by Evan England and Kimberly Phillips, Ph.D.
The December 2020 issue of Disability in Focus from the New Hampshire Disability & Public Health Project shows that in New England, adults with disabilities are more likely than adults
without disabilities to use telehealth for remote health care visits.
Four out of five adults with and without disabilities in New England got more telehealth care in the last six months than they did before the COVID-19 pandemic.
Since March 2020, adults with disabilities used telehealth even more than adults without disabilities but were less happy with the telehealth care they received. Adults with disabilities were more likely than adults without disabilities to say that, at their most recent telehealth visit, their doctor did not:
• Show respect for what they had to say,
• Listen to them carefully,
• Spend enough time together in the visit, or
• Explain things in a way they could understand.
Health care providers can help make telehealth easier to use. They can use active listening as much as possible during telehealth visits and encourage each person to participate in their own care. They can also communicate using plain language, check for understanding, offer flexible appointment times, and agree on how the time will be spent before the visit starts.
Health care providers may benefit from training or resources like the Quick Guide to Telepractice Best Practices from the University of New Hampshire’s Telehealth Practice Center. Even when the pandemic ends, telehealth will be a useful way for people with and without disabilities to get health care. It is important to make sure it works well for everyone.