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J Gen Intern Med. 1995 Mar;10(3):133-7.

Improvements in preventive care and communication for deaf patients: results of a novel primary health care program.

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Medical College of Wisconsin, USA.



To test the hypothesis that profoundly deaf persons would have better preventive care compliance and improved physician communication if enrolled in a primary care program providing American Sign Language (ASL) interpreters.


A case-cohort community-based study. The authors had ASL-fluent research assistants interview 90 randomly selected patients (the cases) enrolled in a unique primary care program for the deaf (Deaf Services Program), which provided full-time ASL interpreters and subsidized health care costs for some patients. Eighty-five deaf controls were friends of the cases drawn from the community.


The cases were poorer and less often married than were the controls, but other baseline characteristics were similar. The cases were more likely (p < 0.05) to report receiving within the preceding three years Pap tests (90% vs 72%), mammography (86% vs 53%), and rectal examinations (72% vs 25%), but not breast examinations (76% vs 71%, p = 0.7). The cases were more likely than the controls to report receiving counseling in ASL for psychiatric and substance abuse problems (49% vs 5%, p < 0.001). Although only 18% of the controls were fluent in written English, 67% of them used written notes to communicate with their physicians. Twenty percent of the controls used ASL interpreters compared with 84% of the cases (p < 0.001). More cases than controls were moderately or extremely satisfied with communication with their physicians (92% vs 42%, p < 0.001).


Deaf persons enrolled in a primary care program that included full-time interpreters were more likely to use ASL, were more satisfied with physician communications, and had improved preventive care outcomes.

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