THE NEW YORK TIMES – For a quarter of a century, Dr. Lisa Iezzoni, a professor of medicine at Harvard, has heard the same story during research with hundreds of people who have disabilities: Health care that was substandard. Medical offices that were not accessible. Doctors who did not treat them with respect.
“Everywhere I looked, there were disparities,” Dr. Iezzoni said. Yet, what patients told her was no surprise, given her own experiences with multiple sclerosis and using a wheelchair.
It was time for the next step.
“I thought I needed to start talking to doctors,” Dr. Iezzoni said. She proposed asking physicians what they really thought when a patient with a disability showed up in their offices.
The result was a study that gathered doctors, a mix of primary care physicians and specialists recruited from across the United States, into three focus groups on video conferences.
“Some doctors said their office scales could not accommodate wheelchairs … “
Protected by anonymity — only first names or nicknames were used — the groups of eight to 10 doctors began to talk. At first, they were guarded, but as the sessions that Dr. Iezzoni moderated wore on, they began to speak more frankly. In their Zoom meetings, they could not see that Dr. Iezzoni was seated in a wheelchair.
The study’s findings, published earlier this month in the journal Health Affairs, stunned one of the study’s authors, Dr. Tara Lagu, professor of medicine and medical social science at Northwestern University.
“It was so shocking, I almost couldn’t believe it,” she said.
While disability takes many forms, the doctors had much to say about people who use wheelchairs.
Some doctors said their office scales could not accommodate wheelchairs, so they had told patients to go to a supermarket, a grain elevator, a cattle processing plant or a zoo to be weighed, or they would tell a new patient the practice was closed …