15 April 2014

Guest Post: Deaf Friendly Dental and Medical Care

Editor's note: Recently, discussion of whether hospitals and medical professionals are doing enough to cater to deaf and hard-of-hearing patients has been at the forefront of the news. A lawsuit filed in Long Island posits that three hospitals failed to have sign language interpreters on staff to communicate with Alfred Weinrib, who thus never understood his cancer diagnosis, and later tried to commit suicide when placed in a nursing home where no one understood him. Last week the BBC took a look at the experience of medical care for deaf people in the UK. As Guardian writer Charlie Swinbourne suggests, it's only a matter of time before a deaf patient dies due to medical neglect brought on by a communication failure. So what does it take to run a deaf-friendly medical practice?
Dr. Sabrina Magid-Katz discusses her New York State dental practice, which specializes in dental care with a holistic approach toward deaf-friendly services. Usually, going to the dentist is a less urgent affair than at the ER, but the struggles facing deaf patients remain in most dentist offices. And, when it comes to your two front teeth, there's little room for error!

HARRISON, N.Y. – Dr. Sabrina Magid-Katz of Advanced Dentistry of Westchester is spreading awareness throughout Westchester County to help make the community more deaf-friendly.

One way to spread awareness is by rating local businesses on www.deafReview.com. “The deafReview website is a great way to encourage businesses to consider and accommodate the deaf and hard of hearing population. Throughout my career, I have made efforts to spread awareness of the Deaf community and educate colleagues about treating deaf and hard of hearing patients. Technology has also allowed us to take patient care to the next level. I hope to raise awareness of the challenges and opportunities available through high tech dentistry to the deaf and hard of hearing population,” said Dr. Magid-Katz.

Dr. Magid-Katz has been committed to addressing the needs of deaf and hard-of-hearing patients throughout her career. During high school, she took American Sign Language courses at the New York School for the Deaf and organized a club to teach her peers and bring students from Byram Hills together with students at NYSD. At Duke University, she initiated and taught an introductory class on ASL and Deaf culture. During dental school at University of Pennsylvania and residency at New York Presbyterian-Methodist Hospital she treated deaf patients, taught her classmates, and extended their community outreach to include a school for the deaf for oral health education and dental screenings.
If you are looking for a deaf friendly dentist, be sure the following is available:

•    Multiple methods of communication
•    Technology to replace the vibration in drills when possible
•    Use of visual aids and intra-oral cameras
•    Good lighting
•    Understanding of the need to remove a mask and remain visible when communicating with lip-reading

Advanced Dentistry of Westchester offers the following accommodations for deaf and hard-of-hearing patients:

Air Abrasion and lasers- Air abrasion technology and lasers that can often eliminate the use of a drill and the uncomfortable vibration it brings. 

Speech-to-text converter- A computer program that converts speech to text on a monitor overhead.  The converter translates Dr. Magid-Katz’s words, which are spoken into a microphone, into text on a monitor above the patient’s chair when lip-reading and sign communication is not possible.

AIM- An (AOL Instant Messenger) account with the screen name DrMagidOffice is one of the methods, along with relay calls and e-mail, used for communication during office hours. When you send the practice an IM, the Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing Coordinator can make or check on an appointment or answer questions about insurance. In case of an emergency when the office is closed, deaf patients can reach the doctors directly via text message.

Graphic Communication- Dr. Magid-Katz takes photos before and during procedures and uses nonverbal, graphic explanations to further communication. 

Lip reading and ASL- The entire staff at Advanced Dentistry of Westchester is familiar with lip reading and the accommodations that need to be made during this form of communication. They also understand that each patient may have a preferred form of communication with which he or she is comfortable. Both Dr. Magid-Katz and Joann, one of the practices hygienists, know sign language. 

Check out Advanced Dentistry of Westchester online here


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  9. In all honestly, it would be a lot easier to talk to the dentist when he has his tools in your mouth if you could just use sign language. You might need someone who could watch you, and translate for you, but you would at least be able to communicate. It is just good that there are more and more people learning sign language. http://ethedentgroup.com/

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