ROCHESTER, NY (WROC) — Rochester has the nation’s highest deaf population per capita. With September being Deaf Awareness month local medical groups are coming together to help better meet the needs of the community.
According to advocates, deaf patients risks misdiagnosis, perhaps delayed medical treatment and possibly poor treatment outcomes if their needs are met or effectively communicated.
Rochester Regional Health Family Medicine at Rochester Institute of Technology is tailored for deaf patients and their families.
“Language, accessibility and accommodations is paramount for the deaf patient and their family members to receive the care that they need,” said Jeff Mothersell, Senior Director of Ancillary Services at RRH.
Patients are greeted by staff members, who all know basic sign language. An interpreter comes after to further assist the patient. A vital tool between the patient and doctor.
“If you’re missing half of the conversation then you’re missing quite a bit of information. and it’s hard to make medical decisions with part of the picture,” said Dr. Eric Wilcox, Lead Physician at Family Medicine RIT.
“I want to make sure that I’m facilitating communication appropriately. I’m getting the facts the meanings the effect of the message coming through and understanding on both sides. I’m just a conduit and it’s coming through me, but at the same time, I want to make sure the information is relayed effectively and appropriately,” said Desiree Leonard, Sign Language Interpreter Coordinator for RRH.
At this clinic, sensory accommodations are included. A light turns on in the examination room to let the patient know the doctor is about to walk in.
For Pat Sullivan it’s about providing service for all.
“Reduced feeling a little bit of stress, it means I don’t have to lip read from a nurse or a doctor telling them why I am here. providing an interpreter really helps us to communicate,” said Sullivan, Deaf Social Worker at RRH.
Advocates say clinics that have these types of services, close the healthcare gap by addressing inequities that some of the deaf and hard of hearing community have experienced.
Officials say they’ll soon be adding deaf social workers as they expand to better serve the community at their facilities.