Physician Responsibility for Compliance With the ADA

Fierce Healthcare reports that since “an estimated one in five Americans [are] living with a disability, medical practices need to be prepared to provide equitable care to these patients.” Unfortunately, says Fierce Healthcare, “Doctors lack specific knowledge” of the “issues and barriers patients encounter.” At least, that’s the conclusion of a new study published in Health Affairs.

The study’s authors measured physician knowledge about the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and how to comply by conducting interviews with practicing physicians. They found that “practicing physicians might not fully understand their legal responsibilities when caring for people with disability” and “may contribute to persisting inequity in their care.” Specifically, they say, doctors have “little formal training about, and demonstrated superficial or incorrect understanding of, their obligations in three potentially problematic areas: deciding which accommodations their practices should implement, refusing patients with disability and holding patients accountable for costs of accommodations.”

To help policyholders better understand and comply with the ADA in their own practices, MLMIC encourages reading of this article from our Dateline newsletter. Written by Donnaline Richman, Esq., from Fager Amsler Keller & Schoppmann, LLP, the article lists several questions physicians can ask to assess whether their office environment protects and facilitates the treatment of patients with disabilities.

As described in Dateline, “physicians must address the environment of care inside their offices from a risk management perspective in order to avoid allegations of discrimination when patients with protected disabilities seek care at their practices. The most obvious areas of concern are the waiting room, the examination tables, the bathroom facilities, handicapped access in the parking area and access when entering the office.” Please refer to the article for additional recommendations related to service animals,* confidentiality and interpreters.

* An update of note: the law no longer defines “service animal” as “dog” only as it did when this article was published in 2016. Further, patients diagnosed with  post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are now included in those who are permitted to have service animals.

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