Physician Practice

Healthcare organizations still catching up to LGBTQIA+ care

Medical Environment Update, April 22, 2021

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by Brian Ward

Sexual and gender minority people are not a modern phenomenon, but it’s only been in the last two decades that the healthcare industry has started rewriting policies and procedures that once excluded or ignored LGBTQIA+ patients and their health issues. Those issues include high rates of substance abuse, mental health disorders, and suicidal ideation.

To aid in the reform effort, leading clinical experts and educators from The Fenway Institute, Fenway Health, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, and Massachusetts General Hospital wrote two reports aimed at giving healthcare providers the knowledge and the tools to properly treat LGBTQIA+ patients: Organizational Strategies and Inclusive Language to Build Culturally Responsive Health Care Environments for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer People and A Blueprint for Planning and Implementing a Transgender Health Program.

“Although acceptance of LGBTQ people is growing, sexual and gender minorities continue to fear discrimination and bias, including in health care settings. Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer people report delaying medically necessary care and hiding their sexual orientation and gender identity to avoid a stigmatizing encounter with a clinician or other health care staff,” the authors wrote.

Nor is LGBTQIA+ health a niche concern for a few communities. A February 2021 Gallup report found that 5.6% of Americans, roughly 18 million people, identify as LGBTQIA+.

That said, in patient safety the population and percentages don’t matter. Quality care means giving all your patients the best possible care, no exceptions. For hospitals and clinics who truly want to be high reliability organizations or achieve zero patient harm, it’s time to rethink patient safety with LGBTQIA+ patients in mind. That includes updating records and forms, working with LGBTQIA+ communities and organizations, and creating a more affirming and compassionate healthcare culture that meets the needs of this underserved, persecuted, and misunderstood group.

This is an excerpt from a member only article. To read the article in its entirety, please login or subscribe to Medical Environment Update.

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