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Accessible Formats in Healthcare

Currently, the AODA does not have a healthcare standard. A committee is making recommendations about what a healthcare standard should include. One issue that a healthcare standard should address is access to information. Healthcare providers should be required to make all information available to all patients. For instance, all healthcare information should be available in accessible formats for patients who need them. Accessible formats in healthcare settings would help create quality medical care for all Ontarians.

Accessible Formats in Healthcare

Under the Information and Communications Standards, healthcare providers must make the information that they create available in accessible formats upon request. Likewise, under the Customer Service Standards, healthcare providers must serve customers in ways that take their communication needs into account. These two provisions seem to ensure that a patient’s service experience should be fully accessible already. However, there is an important service gap which a healthcare standard should fill. Although the service patients receive must be accessible, the goods they receive do not yet need to be.

For instance, when a patient with a print disability purchases medication in Ontario, the pharmacist who sells the medication must provide accessible customer service. However, medication names and instructions are only in standard-sized print. The patient must then make their own labels or systems to recognize which of their medicines is which. They must also find ways to access the medication instruction booklets. They might use software to scan and read instructions, but this process is often time-consuming and full of errors. Alternatively, to ensure that they receive accurate information about the medicine they use, a patient may instead ask loved ones or volunteer readers to go through the instructions verbally. However, this arrangement violates patients’ right to keep personal information confidential.

Accessible Prescriptions

Certain companies and regions have developed small-scale and large-scale solutions for the on-going information gap in healthcare. The Shoppers Drug Mart Pharmacy chain has created an online platform where patients can log on and access the instructions for their medications in alternate formats. Moreover, companies that produce medications in the European Union include Braille labels on all their products. The AODA’s new healthcare standard could implement these strategies for giving all patients access to medication, or suggest other options. A mandate within the AODA’s new standard to provide accessible formats in healthcare would help create quality medical care for all Ontarians.