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Here are some steps healthcare providers can take to better serve LGBTQ patients.
Health outcomes are a critical metric for evaluating our progress toward equality for people of all sexualities and gender identities. LGBTQ people face serious health disparities, such as a higher prevalence of mental illness, drug use, alcohol abuse, sexually transmitted infections, and obesity.
Structural barriers that contribute to these health disparities can also be found within doctors’ offices. Some LGBTQ individuals report experiencing refusal of care, refusal to recognize family members, use of harsh or abusive language, and unwanted physical contact from healthcare providers.
There are steps healthcare providers can take to increase comfort and trust in care settings for LGBTQ patients. If patients are worried about facing stigmatization and discrimination at the doctor’s office, they are less likely to seek out and receive the health care they need.
Filling out required intake, health history, and insurance forms can be distressing to navigate when patients can’t use language with which they identify. Revising these forms to have inclusive options for sexuality and gender identities, pronouns, gender-neutral language for sexual and romantic partners, and other steps can make patients feel more welcome.
Healthcare providers can make it their protocol to use gender-neutral language with patients in the exam room or at the front desk, asking for their pronouns, and implementing inclusivity at the bedside.
The American Medical Association recommends providing visual cues that your office is a welcoming space, such as brochures and educational materials addressing LGBTQ health concerns, publicly posting a nondiscrimination statement, and displaying posters from LGBTQ or HIV/AIDS nonprofit organizations.
Stay up to date with the latest LGBTQ health research and be knowledgeable about the needs of LGBTQ patients. For example, becoming more familiar with the needs of patients undergoing hormone replacement therapy or patients living with HIV/AIDS.
A patient’s healthcare experience goes beyond the examination room. Providers can try extending cultural competency awareness to staff, providing gender neutral bathrooms, and ensuring administrative processes are identity-affirming.
Additional resources on ways in which providers can better serve LGBTQ patients can be found on the GLMA: Health Professionals Advancing LGBTQ Equality website.
If we can lower the barriers to receiving care, we can help minimize the health disparities that exist.