Improving LGBTQ+ Healthcare and Inclusivity

Improving LGBTQ+ Healthcare and Inclusivity

Pride Month marks an opportunity for health care business professionals to help LGBTQ+ patients receive excellent healthcare experiences year-round. Cleveland Clinic’s ClinicPride employee resource group can provide feedback on inclusive policies while tracking changes to local, state and federal legislation.

Reaching LGBTQ+ inclusion requires taking a holistic approach. Consider these best practices:

1. Incorporate LGBTQ+ health into medical school curriculums

Even as progress is being made, LGBTQ individuals still require access to culturally competent health care systems that offer them resources and information they require for wellbeing. Medical schools can help address this challenge by teaching their students to provide culturally competent care that affirms LGBT patients.

However, current curricula are often inadequate in including LGBT-specific material and language in their teachings. A survey of 170 US medical schools showed that on average students only learned five hours on LGBTQ health issues over their medical education careers.

Shane Snowdon of the UCSF LGBT Center guided a group of rising second-year students who recently mapped existing preclinical curriculum units to identify which may contain LGBT-related content, including infectious diseases, mental health, endocrinology, cardiovascular disease nutrition geriatrics and addiction modules. Furthermore, residency programs were evaluated for any inclusion of LGBT material during clinical years.

2. Provide culturally relevant education to health professionals

Healthcare systems must offer educational content about LGBTQ+ health beyond medical school students to ensure providers are culturally aware and can best meet the needs of patients. Interactive lunch-and-learns, continuing education courses and resources such as The National LGBTQIA+ Health Education Center are great ways to offer this kind of education.

Nurses play an integral part in this effort, acting as advocates for LGBTQ+ health inclusion within healthcare systems, supporting public LGBT health initiatives, monitoring compliance with non-discriminatory policies and practices and helping patients overcome any obstacles to seeking care, console when experiencing discriminatory treatment from other healthcare professionals, while encouraging person-centric care practices.

To see how your hospital/healthsystem compares with others in the country on various criteria, such as inclusivity, please click here for the Health Facilities Equality Index (HEI). This tool allows hospitals and healthsystems to identify long-standing disparities and ensure all their patients receive equitable and compassionate care.

3. Communicate regularly about inclusive policies and practices

LGBTQ individuals require health care that encompasses every aspect of their lives, including sexual and reproductive wellbeing. Unfortunately, they often face health threats caused by stigma and discrimination as well as intersecting oppressions which exacerbate poor outcomes for them.

Healthcare facilities continue to fall short in meeting the needs of LGBTQ individuals. Discrimination, barriers to access and knowledge gaps among healthcare staff often make providing adequate care challenging.

An effective strategy to combat this issue is by regularly communicating about inclusive policies and practices. When selecting healthcare providers, be sure to ask about their nondiscrimination and affirmative practice guidelines as well as LGBTQIA friendliness policies designed to accommodate patients of different gender identities.

Human Rights Campaign, a human rights advocacy organization, has released the Healthcare Equality Index as part of their efforts to evaluate how well healthcare facilities treat LGBTQ patients, visitors and employees. The Index can be found online here for free.

4. Engage the community

Collecting data about sexual orientation, gender identity and sex characteristics (SOGIC) is crucial to understanding health risks and needs within the LGBTQ community, yet inclusivity transcends these analytical aspects.

Acknowledging and respecting LGBTQ identities as well as removing social barriers preventing them from accessing healthcare services and care is also crucial, with those living in countries criminalizing consensual same-sex sexual activity often experiencing discriminatory attitudes from health-care workers and inappropriate pathologizing based on SOGIESC experiencing especially harsh treatment from such workers.

Healthcare organizations can engage their local LGBTQ communities through partnerships with trusted community centers and programs like free STI clinics or cancer screenings. Such initiatives help ensure LGBTQ individuals feel safe and welcome at your facilities, which ultimately improves outcomes and experiences. Furthermore, providing inclusive employee benefits like FOLX Health shows your company’s dedication to LGBTQ advocacy.

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