Healthcare Utilization & Women w/Physical Disabilities

Healthcare Utilization Among Women With Physical Disabilities

from Medscape Women's Health eJournal[TM] Catherine P. Coyle, PhD, Mayra C. Santiago, PhD, FACSM


Background: Current published data indicate barriers and deficiencies in healthcare for women with physical disabilities. Yet, information regarding the influence of secondary conditions and demographic variables on the actual utilization of general health and rehabilitative services is limited.

This research examined this issue.

Design: Survey research

Setting: Metropolitan Philadelphia region

Participants: 170 women between 21 and 65 years of age with physical disabilities

Results: Most (96%) women had seen a general healthcare provider (eg, personal physician or gynecologist) in the past 6 months, with 60% reporting seeing such a provider 3 or more times.

Despite this high frequency, many women had not had routine preventive gynecologic cancer screening services in the past 5 years. Additionally, respondents reported experiencing on average 12 secondary complications in the past year that moderately impaired their functioning.

Many of these complications (fatigue, spasticity, deconditioning, joint pain, depression, social isolation) are preventable. Despite these complications, only about half of the women had seen a rehabilitative service provider (eg, physical therapist, mental health worker) in the past 6 months.

Women who saw their general healthcare provider most frequently were more likely to also be receiving services from a rehabilitative service provider.

Conclusion: General healthcare providers are frequently seeing women with physical disabilities. Healthcare providers have the ability and opportunity to enhance the health and wellness of this population.

Particular attention should be focused on providing preventive healthcare services, including gynecologic cancer screenings and prevention and management of secondary conditions that accompany disability.

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