Improving Healthcare Access And Acceptance For LGBTQ Patients
Healthcare provider and patient guidelines for inclusive LGBTQ care.
Increasing patient engagement and improving healthcare participation among lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender patients is becoming more widely recognized as a priority in today’s healthcare environment. In the past, LGBTQ individuals have often reported concerns over stigmatization or fears of discrimination when seeking healthcare for themselves, their children, or their partners.
Members of the LGBTQ community frequently have healthcare requirements that are unique from those of heterosexual patients, with differences ranging from treatment options for mental health needs, discussions related to intimate partner violence and home safety, dealing with health issues related to obesity or eating disorders, or tips for avoiding or treating sexually transmitted diseases, among others.
Addressing these distinctive needs requires improved engagement at the patient, spouse/partner, and clinician levels; and more importantly, obtaining appropriate and sensitive care is dependent on the exchange of honest, open, and meaningful information and communication from all of the stakeholders.
The American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA) recently developed guidelines for healthcare professionals and patients that addresses the needs of the LGBT community in its practice brief, “Improved Patient Engagement for LGBT Populations: Addressing Factors Related to Sexual Orientation/Gender Identify for Effective Health Information Management.” AHIMA’s guidelines not only provide direction to all healthcare professionals on providing optimal treatment for LGBT patients – it also explains how patients can more comfortably and easily interact with their healthcare providers.
Based on a survey of self-identified members of the LGBT community that was conducted by the AHIMA authors for the practice brief, LGBT patients should consider the following when seeking healthcare:
- Telling their healthcare provider their sexual orientation and gender identity during the first visit to identify if the provider has any questions about providing appropriate care as well as specifying any requests that they have about use of preferred names or pronouns.
- Letting the healthcare provider know if they want to make a change to a healthcare form, such as adding a second mother’s name in fields that ask for “father” during their child’s appointment or a partner’s name when a form asks for “spouse.”
- Providing copies of health information from prior hospitalizations or previous clinic visits to the physician in advance of the first appointment to allow the physician time to review information and ask questions that are pertinent when they see the patient. For example, reviewing records in advance may eliminate the need to answer questions regarding contraceptive needs or to explain that pregnancy occurred through reproductive technology.
- Making sure that patients and their spouses/partners both sign a HIPAA-approved release of information form wherever healthcare is being provided, thus granting each partner/spouse access to each other’s medical information. Each partner/spouse should list the other as their emergency contact to ensure that they are notified in an emergency. Access among partners/spouses to patient portals through shared passwords or by assigning them as a proxy is another way for LGBT couples to gain access to each other’s medical information. Both partners should also request shared access to the patient portal for their children.
- Asking friends and family members for recommendations when seeking a new, inclusive healthcare provider.
Undeniably, healthcare is evolving at a faster-than-ever pace, and achieving an inclusive, nonjudgmental, and clinically effective healthcare experience for all patients is a clear and convincing priority for both healthcare consumers and healthcare providers alike. As the future of healthcare emerges, a mutual understanding of diverse healthcare consumer requirements coupled with an increased awareness of their different needs from the greater healthcare provider community will enable the delivery of better and more personalized healthcare and ultimately improve the overall health and well-being of all individuals, including LGBT patients and their families.
The American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA) represents more than 103,000 health information professionals in the United States and around the world. AHIMA is committed to promoting and advocating for high quality research, best practices and effective standards in health information and to actively contributing to the development and advancement of health information professionals worldwide. AHIMA’s enduring goal is quality healthcare through quality information. www.ahima.org