Empowering patients with disabilities

Did you know 18 per cent of the Australian population has a disability? They also have higher rates of health service use whilst experiencing greater barriers to accessing health care.

In a world striving for inclusivity and equality, it is vital that healthcare systems adapt to cater to the diverse needs of patients. One of the ways in which The Royal Children’s Hospital (RCH) is working towards achieving that goal is by implementing a way to routinely identify patients with a disability, in the Electronic Medical Record (EMR) system.  

Supported by philanthropy, this project is poised to bring about significant positive changes in healthcare, including enabling patients with disabilities to receive timely adjustments in their care. Healthcare providers will also have quick access to disability-related information via a patient’s file in the EMR, allowing for more informed and personalised care. 

Joanne Rowe, the Program Manager leading this project at RCH, exemplifies this commitment to inclusivity and equality in healthcare. 

“Identifying patients with a disability early in the patient intake or admission processes is critical to enable necessary adjustments in care and appropriate referral for equitable access to quality healthcare,” Joanne shares. 

“In the absence of data collection, patients with disabilities can remain ‘invisible’ within the healthcare system, leading to missed opportunities for timely support. This has implications not only for how we support our patients individually but also how we allocate resources and address systemic barriers at a service level.” 

The outcomes of this project will have a significant impact on RCH patients and staff, and strong progress has been made in the first six months. “The Disability Identifier project aims to improve patient care by enabling patients and their families to self-report their disability status and individual support needs in the EMR,” shares Joanne. 

“In the first six months of its implementation, we have had well over one thousand patients complete the disability identification questions in EMR, at the RCH alone. Crucially, this data is providing us, for the first time, with a snapshot of which of our patients indicate they have a disability and any assistance they require when accessing our health services.”

Joanne expresses her gratitude to the RCH Foundation and its supporters for their invaluable contribution to the Disability Identifier project. 

“The generous funding from the RCH Foundation has played a pivotal role in enabling us to implement the Disability Identifier, a tool that is already improving the care we provide to patients with disabilities. The RCH Foundation’s support has directly benefited RCH patients and clinicians and will contribute towards developing standard practice in how we identify and respond to the needs of patients with disabilities across healthcare systems.” 

Donate to support inclusive initiatives across the RCH and help make healthcare more accessible for patients with disabilities.