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Primary care for adults with physical disabilities: perceptions from consumer and provider focus groups.


Family physicians lack data on how best to address the needs of adults with physical disabilities. We undertook this study to understand how consumers, educators, and other professionals perceive primary care for people with disabilities.

We conducted six focus groups, three with 27 health professionals in primary care practices affiliated with an urban university medical center and three with 19 local adults, ages 21-64 years, with physical disabilities. From transcribed recordings, three investigators conducted separate content analyses. Independent author reviews and participant review confirmed saturation and agreement for major themes.

All groups perceived that generalist physicians and other health professionals need more education about disability issues. Multiple barriers limit care, including physical access and transportation, funding, limitations in professionals' knowledge and attitudes, communication gaps, and health systems failures. Both consumers and professionals recommended reducing barriers by educating professionals and trainees about disabilities and resources, improving provider-patient communication, enhancing physical access (eg, high-low examination tables, wide automatic doors, high-contrast signs and lighting, wheelchair scales), and increasing appointment times.

Primary care must address the unmet needs of people with disabilities. Family medicine educators can begin by teaching learners how to coordinate care, access resources, and communicate about disability issues.

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