Tufts OpenCourseware
Author: Linda M. Long

Medical Interviewing and the Doctor-Patient Relationship
Fall 2011
L. Long-Bellil, PhD, JD
Tufts University School of Medicine

Talking with Patients with a Disability


Due to advances in medical practice and technology, more people with disabilities are surviving and thriving in society today than ever before. Even so, people with disabilities frequently report difficulties in communicating with physicians and that these difficulties create barriers to effective diagnosis, assessment and treatment (Iezzoni, 2006). Interviewing these individuals is very similar to interviewing other patients- they have the same needs - but their disabilities may also present specific considerations that need to be addressed. In addition, interacting with someone with a disability in the relatively intimate environment of the medical encounter may be a new experience for many students and even practicing physicians. To ensure that ineffective communication does not impede the provision of quality care, it is helpful to understand a few basic principles, many of which apply to patients generally as well. In fact, it can be said that interviewing that is truly patient-centered in all senses of the word is what patients with disabilities really need. Today, we will discuss effective ways to interview people with disabilities in the clinical setting and appropriately address their needs.

Lecture Objectives

By the end of the lecture, you will be able to:

  • Describe a conceptual framework of disability

  • Understand the basic principles of “disability etiquette”

  • Describe how principles of patient-centeredness can facilitate an effective medical interview with patients with disabilities

  • Identify those aspects of interviewing patients with disabilities that may be challenging and describe some approaches for addressing those challenges.

Small Group Performance Objectives

After practice in the small group, you will be able to:

  • Apply the principles of patient-centered interviewing to an interview with a patient with a disability

  • Apply the basic principles of “disability etiquette”

  • Identify particular considerations that that are important to address for the patient with a disability

Supplemental Readings