Working with Doctor for Best Communication

Posted on September 24, 2008 in Tips for Communication | Short Link
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The information provided on this page is intended to be general in nature and should not be construed as legal advice applicable to any specific situation. WE STRONGLY ENCOURAGE YOU TO CONSULT WITH AN ATTORNEY IF YOU HAVE QUESTIONS ABOUT YOUR SITUATION AND THE LAW.

If You are DEAF, DEAFBLIND, or HARD OF HEARING, you have a right to EFFECTIVE COMMUNICATION with your health care provider.

What is Effective Communication?

  • Sufficient Communication to Provide the Same Level of Services as Those Received by Hearing People.
  • Applies to Important Conversations.

Examples of Important Conversations include:

  • Medical History
  • Discussing Diagnosis
  • Discussing Treatment Options
  • Informed Consent for Treatment
  • Talk Therapy
  • Discharge Planning
  • Instructions for Home
  • Financial arrangements
  • Evaluations, such as for Hospital Commitment

Providers do not necessarily have to provide a specific device or service that you request if another aid or service that is more cost effective will still enable clear, effective communication. However, they cannot assume a specific accommodation will work for you without your input into the decision.

How can you help ensure good communication?

1. Request the accommodation you need as far in advance as possible.

This will allow your doctor time to arrange for what you need.

2. Ask for exactly what you need and explain why that accommodation will work best for you.

Your doctor will be more likely to give you what you need if he/she understands what you are talking about.

3. If possible, give contact information for arranging for the accommodation you need to your doctor’s office.

Sometimes doctors do not provide what you need because they don’t know where to get it.

4. Call the day before to confirm that arrangements have been made for your accommodation.

This will serve as a reminder and may save you a trip if the doctor hasn’t taken the steps he/she should have.

5. If you arrive at your appointment and there is no accommodation, you may wish to reschedule your appointment for a time when the accommodation is available.

You should take into consideration the urgency of your medical condition as well as the risks associated with not being able to communicate adequately.

Pennsylvania law requires that an interpreter provided to you must be certified unless you waive your right and allow someone who is not certified to interpret. A healthcare provider cannot make you use someone who is not certified unless you agree and complete the appropriate form required by the Pennsylvania Office of Deaf and Hard of Hearing. You can revoke your permission to use a non-certified interpreter at any time by filling out a revocation form and giving it to the provider and/or the interpreter.

Questions or Problems? Contact:

Disability Rights Network of Pennsylvania
Carol Horowitz, chorowitz@drnpa.org

Intake line:
877-375-7139 (TDD/TTY)
800-692-7443 (Voice)


If you would like to learn more about this topic or if you have resources to offer, please contact us.


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