In honor of Pride Month, we’re taking a look at LGBTQ patients’ access to health care - or the lack thereof. While 47 states have health care facilities which specifically target lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer communities; the cross-state coverage of these clinics is inadequate. Most states only have a few organizations which specifically look to serve LGBTQ individuals, and at primary care offices many providers are hesitant to even ask patients about sexual preferences and behaviors. Patients’ experiences and expectations of discrimination compounded by a general lack of provider “cultural competency” hamper access to timely, necessary care.
However, health care organizations and providers, on an individual level, can take steps to demonstrate that they not only value LGBTQ patients, but are attuned to their unique health experiences. Here are five things patient access teams should think about doing this June:
Revising intake forms. Ensure your forms and questionnaires include a range of sexual orientations and gender identities, an option to select preferred pronouns, and questions about what barriers to care your patients foresee or have experienced.
Opting for online check-in. Intake forms via tablet, or online check-in prior to the appointment, can make patients more comfortable answering personal questions.
Mandating training for all employees. LGBTQ health training for your providers and office staff is necessary. Providers need to use correct pronouns, avoid making assumptions, and be sensitive to the experience of each individual. Free online trainings and other resources are available at the National LGBT Health Education Center’s website.
Marketing yourself as welcoming. Include same-sex couples among the images of patients on your website. If your practice has a blog - use it to promote inclusivity. Take a look at Callen Lorde’s webpage for ideas. Place educational brochures in the waiting room; help patients learn about health problems they might be at a higher risk of encountering and make them feel more relaxed to ask questions.
Having referrals ready. According to the Human Rights Watch, one of the biggest frustrations of LGBTQ patients is having difficulty finding services such as hormone replacement therapy, AIDS treatment, etc. If your practice does not offer these resources, familiarize yourself with nearby clinics and providers who do - even partner with them if possible.
LGBTQ patients in the United States attend approximately 34.1 million doctors appointments annually. Making an effort to be supporting and accommodating will increase your marketshare not only with these patients but also allies, and importantly, will contribute to a greater push for more access to care and positive health outcomes among the LGBTQ community.
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