FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
January 28, 2010
Contact: HHS Press Office
University of Utah Hospitals and Clinics to Ensure Effective Communication for Persons with Disabilities
Patients with hearing, vision, and speech disabilities, who receive care at University of Utah Hospitals & Clinics, will be screened and provided with auxiliary aids and services as required by federal law under a Resolution Agreement reached with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).
An HHS Office for Civil Rights (OCR) compliance review identified areas of improvement needed to ensure that qualified individuals with disabilities receive equal access to the University of Utah’s health care system. Under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, recipients of federal financial assistance (often hospitals and health care providers reimbursed by Medicare or Medicaid) must provide auxiliary aids and services. These aids and services include qualified sign language interpreters and readers, when necessary to ensure effective communication with patients and companions who have hearing, vision or speech impairments.
The University of Utah Hospitals & Clinics, located in Salt Lake, Davis, Wasatch, Tooele, and Utah Counties, provide care for residents of Utah and five surrounding states, and see more than 850,000 patients per year. As a result of the Agreement with OCR, the health care system will develop new policies and procedures, improved notices to patients of available auxiliary aids and services, comprehensive records to assure ongoing provision of appropriate aids and services, and extensive training of personnel.
“Effective communication is critical in health care settings where miscommunication may lead to misdiagnosis and endanger patient safety,” said OCR Director Georgina Verdugo. “OCR is committed to ensuring that all qualified individuals with disabilities are afforded equal access to safe, high-quality health care environments.”
“We are committed to providing all of our patients with safe, convenient and quality health care,” according to Rob Kistler, director of customer service for University of Utah Hospitals & Clinics. “The voluntary changes to our processes and policies that will be implemented based on recommendations from the Office for Civil Rights will continue to guarantee that our patients and their companions have timely access to appropriate auxiliary aids and service.”
A copy of the Agreement, along with more information about OCR’s enforcement work, can be found at www.hhs.gov/ocr/civilrights/activities/agreements.
OCR is partnering with the American Hospital Association and state hospital associations across the nation to raise awareness about the requirements of federal civil rights laws. More information about the Effective Communication in Hospitals Initiative can be found at www.hhs.gov/ocr/civilrights/resources/specialtopics/hospitalcommunication/index.html
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Last revised: May 7, 2011