KMA began working with the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC) – Boston’s premiere hospitals and health care providers – shortly after it learned that it was not in full compliance with the ADA’s accessible facilities and equipment requirements. BIDMC took the removal of barriers very seriously, as it understands accessibility is a critical aspect of patient care. Working with BIDMC staff KMA helped to identify and remove architectural barriers – adding van accessible parking spaces, automatic door openers, grab bars in toilet rooms, and directional signage. In addition to making its facilities fully accessible, BIDMC installed accessible exam tables and scales for all of its departments and clinics as well as seven videophones for people who are Deaf or hard of hearing in main lobbies, the ER, and Labor and Delivery.
As work progressed, BIDMC became aware that providing accessible facilities and equipment was just the first step. With KMA’s support, it formed a Universal Access Advisory Council of staff, family, and patients with disabilities. The group included people with different types of disabilities, all of whom receive care at BIDMC. This group helped BIDMC understand the gaps in accessible service, leading to additional access improvements, including:
- A process of identifying access accommodations a patient will need while making an appointment. In this way, the patient who needs an accessible exam table can be assigned to that room.
- Use of the one question on the Press-Ganey questionnaire to collect data on patients’ experiences and make appropriate adjustments.
- Development of a “Tool Box” on the BIDMC staff portal so that they can easily find resources for how to solve access-related issues.
- Sharing patient advisors’ experiences – the good and the not-so-good – so that management can address problems and support exemplary services.
- Development of resources and training for staff around specific issues such as how to be sure that a patient with dementia is safely escorted to and from appointments, or how to ensure that a wheelchair user is assigned an inpatient room that is accessible.
KMA is proud to be partnering with BIDMC as it carefully expands its remarkable work to provide people with disabilities the same quality care that others receive in their hospitals and clinics. Their process could be a model for hospitals – all of whom are learning new ways of providing health care for all.