Study to Help People with Disabilities Receive Quality Care

Posted: June 22, 2007 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

By Lori Jennings

College of Health and Human Services professor Sue Palsbo was awarded a one-year, $367,359 grant from the California Healthcare Foundation to study a questionnaire that interviews Medicaid beneficiaries with disabilities on how they rate the quality of their health care.

Ultimately, the research will help Californians with disabilities better choose health insurance plans or specific group practices, potentially becoming a model for other states and employers currently measuring quality of care only among the general population.

Palsbo, principal research associate for the college’s Center for the Study of Chronic Illness and Disability, will investigate the factors that people with disabilities rate as important to them when they discuss the quality of a health plan or particular doctor.

“Depending on one’s disability, he or she will be interested in different areas of health care services,” Palsbo said. “For example, people with spinal cord injuries are interested in prompt wheelchair repairs and a reliable source of medical supplies. People with arthritis or cancer are interested in pain management. Everyone is interested in being involved in decisions about their health care, participating in community activities, being treated with respect and understanding and leading a purposeful life.”

A sample of enrollees in four California Medicaid HMOs and those receiving home and community-based services through a California state agency will be selected to test the instrument. The validated survey will be used to compile ratings on general and disability-specific care. In addition, the research will be used to develop a model for “comparative report cards” so people with disabilities can choose the best health insurance or doctor based on their individual needs.

The research team, which includes Mason statistics assistant professor Guoqing Diao, will investigate associations between questions to help determine quality of care factors, such as primary attributes of physicians (patient-physician communication, technical ability, etc.) that correlate with high ratings, as well as ways physicians can better coordinate care across multiple specialties.

In addition, the team will look at the range of responses based on how the survey was completed (phone or mail) as well as the respondents’ type and severity of disability. With this information, the team will identify specific service areas that are working well or need improvement. The results will be delivered to federal agencies and states for use in the development of questionnaires for regulatory compliance and quality improvement.

Other team members are Mathematica Policy Research Inc. and the American Institutes for Research. Disability Health Access LLC is providing coordination support for Mason, the study sites, California agencies, and the disability advocacy organizations. Delmarva Foundation for Medical Care will assist with construction of the comparative report card.

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