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After the health assessment

This article explores best practice techniques for communicating with people with an intellectual disability after a health assessment.
A woman on a telephone looking at a computer screen with a calendar on it.

It is important for healthcare professionals to follow up with people once the health appointment or consultation is complete. To ensure that there is equity and accessibility for someone with an intellectual disability, you should consider what happens to them when they leave you.

They may either be going home to manage their own care, or they need to progress onward to a more specialised service. You have an important role to play. What you want to achieve is:

  • A simplified journey for the person on their healthcare pathway
  • Easy access to follow up care
  • Full involvement of the person’s support team to ensure appropriate care is offered to the person
  • Measurable and transparent standards of care to ensure a holistic approach and excellent care

Simplified journey through their healthcare pathway

Following the person’s appointment, ensure they are clear as to what action comes next:

  • What are their results?
  • Do they have to attend again?
  • What was their outcome?

If the person has to attend again, make sure they have their Easy Read written appointment. Now that you have met the person, you can judge how much time and space you and they will need for their next appointment.

It is a good idea to provide the person with contact details in case they have any follow-up questions later. Frequently, they will not retain a lot of the information, no matter how often it is repeated at the time. Be sure to clarify any instructions with the person accompanying them, if someone else is present.

Ensure easy access to follow up care

Now that you have met them, ask yourself what you can do to make future meetings easier for the person with an intellectual disability.

  • Do they need a reminder for their next appointment?
  • Have you scheduled this as a phone call rather than a posted letter?
  • What other aspects need to be addressed to ensure the person knows what to do next?

Involvement of the whole team

Take a multidisciplinary team approach to care. Consider:

  • Does the person need social supports to ensure that home supports or services are in place?
  • Do they know what to do or how to access these services and supports?
  • Has their support worker / carer / careworker received all the follow-up information needed?
  • Have you shared your knowledge with other key personnel who will be involved in any aftercare?

By considering these questions, you can improve the person’s aftercare experience and the approach of healthcare professionals for all people with intellectual disabilities.

Measureable standards of care

As we have seen in Step 3.1, one positive approach introduced in the UK has been an automatic annual check-up for patients with an intellectual disability. This is considered good practice and something that you could consider introducing in your area of practice.

It is also good practice to introduce to the person with intellectual disability a Health Passport which can contain their essential and ‘good to know’ information. This allows for the smooth transfer of information from one professional to another without the need for the person to be questioned unnecessarily.

Prepare for care

It is also good practice to be proactive in planning for a crisis situation. Assist carers and support workers in planning for a crisis event:

  • Ensure it is clearly indicated who to call should a crisis arise
  • Identify what services they need to contact in response to a particular health concern
  • Ensure they have an up-to-date Health Passport in case they need to visit the Emergency Department

It is good practice to involve people with an intellectual disability in the development of services. This can ensure you can make reasonable adjustment and can highlight needs. You should make every effort to involve people and their carers in decision-making.

Ask yourself

What other things do I need to do so that people with intellectual disabilities will receive timely and appropriate health services?
© Trinity College Dublin
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Improving Health Assessments for People with an Intellectual Disability

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