Inclusive, Accessible Health Care the Focus of Free Continuing Medical Education Course

Primary care providers can receive three CME credit hours while learning how to provide better care to their patients with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

August 2, 2022

AUCD's network of Intellectual and Developmental Disability Research Centers (IDDRCs) consists of 16 Centers. Fifteen Centers currently receive funding from the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute for Child Health and Human Development (NICHD). IDDRCs contribute to the development and implementation of evidence-based practices by evaluating the effectiveness of biological, biochemical, and behavioral interventions; developing assistive technologies; and advancing prenatal diagnosis and newborn screening.

A new Continuing Medical Education (CME) course aimed at facilitating more equitable and accessible health care for patients with intellectual and/or developmental disabilities (I/DD) is available through the University of Arizona Sonoran Center for Excellence in Disabilities.

The CME is a free and self-directed online course for physicians, nurse practitioners, and other licensed health care providers who require continuing education. Course completion grants three CME credit hours toward license renewal.

The course was developed by the UArizona Department of Family and Community Medicine’s Julie Armin, PhD, assistant professor and Sonoran Center affiliated faculty member, and Heather Williamson, DrPH, associate professor of occupational therapy at Northern Arizona University.

“The idea for the course arose from another of our research projects,” said Dr. Armin. “In that project, women with disabilities, their supporters, and providers told us that health care providers are not often aware of best practices for working with patients with I/DD.”

National research has also found that primary care providers hold biases about people with disabilities and need more information and support in providing more comprehensive and equitable care for their patients who have disabilities.

Drs. Armin and Williamson expect the course will help people with disabilities feel more seen and heard by their primary care provider.

The course consists of three modules. The first module is focused on understanding the health inequities faced by people with I/DD, and ways the health care environment can be more accessible. The second module is about informed consent for people with I/DD. The third module establishes the concept of supported decision-making and how to apply it within a health care setting.

“There are interactive quizzes, videos, and virtual activities throughout the course to keep the learner engaged,” Dr. Williamson said. “A resource guide can also be downloaded and kept for the health providers to reference when working with individuals with I/DD in practice.”

Funding for course development came from the Arizona Developmental Disabilities Planning Council, which found through a 2020 survey that Arizona residents with disabilities identified better interaction with medical care providers as the highest priority for self-advocates.

“The work of Drs. Armin and Williamson is addressing a recognized need for awareness and education among both health care providers and members of the I/DD community, and it is a privilege for the Arizona Developmental Disabilities Planning Council to have a role in supporting this effort,” said Jon Meyers, executive director of the Arizona Developmental Disabilities Planning Council.

The CME helps address the need for awareness and education through a discussion about supported decision-making. “Supported decision-making provides a formal structure other than guardianship for assisting people who may have limitations in their decision-making abilities,” said Tamsen Bassford, MD, associate professor, UArizona Department of Family and Community Medicine. “Most people, neurotypical or not, have supporters in their lives from whom they get advice for big decisions. This formalizes that relationship for someone with intellectual disabilities.”

Dr. Bassford provided subject matter expertise in the development of the course as a co-investigator on the project team.

A project steering committee comprised of physicians, nurse practitioners, self-advocates, and leaders within Arizona’s health care systems also provided guidance and direction. “This unique and highly valuable CME helps primary care practitioners understand and communicate to effectively guide adults with developmental disabilities regarding their health care decision making processes,” said Audrey Russell-Kibble, a steering committee member and retired UArizona College of Nursing clinical assistant professor. “This information is helpful for the patient, their families, and our communities.”

The CME, titled “Your Patient with Intellectual and/or Developmental Disability: Accessibility, Decision-Making and Consent” can be accessed through the Sonoran Center for Excellence in Disabilities website: