Currently, there are still no AODA healthcare standards. However, an AODA standards development committee drafted recommendations of guidelines that AODA healthcare standards should include. These guidelines include coordinating accessibility accommodations in healthcare.
The committee’s mandate from the Ontario government requires recommendations focused on the hospital setting. However, patients and healthcare workers with disabilities also face barriers in other parts of the healthcare system, including:
- Doctors’ offices
- Walk-in clinics
- Wellness centres
- Nursing homes
- Outpatient rehabilitation centres
- Health regulatory colleges
Therefore, all these settings should coordinate accessibility accommodations in healthcare.
Coordinating Accessibility Accommodations in Healthcare
When hospital patients need accommodations, they must disclose these needs to their healthcare providers. Patients transferring to other hospital wards, or to other healthcare services, must disclose the same needs to their new healthcare providers. For example, patients may disclose multiple times when they transfer to:
- Outpatient care
- Long-term care
- Their own home, while receiving home care
Similarly, patients may disclose accommodation needs when visiting:
Therefore, the committee recommends that hospitals create and implement policies requiring patients to disclose their accommodation needs only once. Hospitals should ask every patient whether they have any accommodation needs. This proactive process allows patients to explain their own needs based on functional abilities, rather than medical diagnosis.
For example, a patient might explain to their doctor that they have a brain injury. The patient should not need to describe their medical diagnosis. Instead, the patient might explain that their injury makes it difficult for them to take in written information. As a result, the patient might request to record their discussions with their doctor on their phone.
After a patient discloses their needs to one hospital department, the hospital should create a record of these needs. The hospital should then share this record with other wards, so that staff throughout the hospital will be prepared to accommodate the patient. Moreover, hospitals can also share this record with other healthcare providers outside the hospital, such as community care.
For example, if the patient with a brain injury is transferred to another ward, the patient should not need to explain their accommodations again. Instead, their new healthcare providers should already be prepared to meet this patient’s accommodation needs. Similarly, if the patient later needs home care from a nurse, the nurse should also know about the patient’s accommodation needs.
Electronic Healthcare Records
One appropriate place to record a patient’s accommodation needs is within the patient’s healthcare records. When these records are electronic, accommodation needs are easier to share within hospitals, or with other healthcare providers. Therefore, the committee recommends that hospitals maintain electronic patient records. In addition, these records should include required fields for accommodation needs. This requirement would ensure that hospital staff ask every patient about ways to make their healthcare more accessible. Finally, hospitals can also produce copies of these electronic records in accessible formats. In this way, patients, caregivers, or healthcare workers who read in these formats can have equal access to records.
These recommendations should help hospitals meet patients’ accessibility needs promptly, while respecting their time and their right to independence.