Meeting in the middle: Improving communication in primary health care consultations with people with an intellectual disability

Jenny Ziviani, Nicholas Lennox, Heather Allison, Michael Lyons, C Del Mar

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

106 Citations (Scopus)


The increased presence and participation in Australian society of people with an intellectual disability provides challenges for the provision of primary health care. General practitioners (GPs) identify themselves as ill equipped to provide for this heterogeneous population. A major obstacle to the provision of appropriate health care is seen as inadequate communication between the GP and the person with an intellectual disability, who may or may not be accompanied by a carer or advocate. This qualitative study in which five GPs, three people with intellectual disability, seven carers and two advocates (parent and friend) were interviewed was conducted in Brisbane, Australia. The aim was to better understand the factors that have an impact upon the success of communication in a medical consultation. Findings suggested that GPs were concerned with the aspects of communication difficulties which influenced their ability to adequately diagnose, manage and inform patients. Implications for practice management were also identified. People with intellectual disability reported frustration when they felt that they could not communicate adequately with the GP and annoyance when they were not included in the communication exchange. Carers were strong advocates for the person with intellectual disability, but indicated insufficient skill and knowledge to provide the level of assistance required in the consultation. The outcome was a model of cooperation that outlined the responsibilities of all players in the medical encounter, prior to, during and after the event.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)211-225
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Intellectual and Developmental Disability
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2004
Externally publishedYes


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