Everyone deserves a health care team that puts their needs first, but for the LGBTQ+ community, it can be difficult to find facilities that not only understand certain LGBTQ+ health concerns, but will go out of their way to make their patients feel included in their practices.
Whether you’re a practitioner looking to improve your health care experiences or a future patient looking for a medical team that will care for your needs, here is what to look for in an LGBTQ+ friendly health team:
Consider telehealth options.
Telehealth appointments are a safe, convenient way for LGBTQ+ patients to access health care. Telehealth can also be a necessary lifeline for some patients who do not have LGBTQ+-affirming health care available nearby. Patients who don’t feel safe confirming their identities face-to-face or who don’t feel safe talking about their health in their own homes are able to find a more private, transportable way to receive the medical care they deserve.
Make sure your intake and online forms are inclusive.
A great sign of an inclusive healthcare facility is one that shows inclusion for all identities right off the bat. Check to make sure your online or email intake forms or health assessments are updated to be inclusive for sex assigned at birth, gender identity and sexual orientation. This allows you to collect accurate information you will need as part of your telehealth care and it also lets your LGBTQ+ patients know that you prioritize their health and wellbeing. Review and modify your forms to move away from cis-gendered, heteronormative language. Suggested changes include:
- “Caregiver” or “parent” instead of “mother” or “father”
- “Spouse” instead of “husband” or “wife”
Also allow space for your patients to write in their own answers if the multiple-choice options do not apply to them. Including identifying options, such as “intersex,” “transmasculine,” “transfeminine,” “non-binary” and other identifiers that are often left out of professional documents, can also foster a sense of inclusion for LGBTQ+ patients.
Encourage your colleagues and staff to take LGBTQ+ health education training as part of your telehealth workflow.
Educating yourself and your staff on LGBTQ+ health care will ensure you are providing the highest quality telehealth care to communities that are often marginalized in traditional health care settings. This especially includes people of color, transgender youth and people living with HIV/AIDS. There are also large communities of people that fit into several of those categories, which can lead to further marginalization. Specialized training could include information about LBGTQ+ youth, behavioral and mental health, HIV/AIDS treatment and counseling and transgender health care.
For patients, do your research and ask questions to make sure that your potential health care team has had this training and understands the ins and outs of your specific concerns.
Use proper pronouns.
A “green flag” to patients and an incredibly easy implementation for health care staff is simply utilizing the correct pronouns. Upon the first meeting, make sure you ask for preferred pronouns and make a note of what they are if necessary. While this should be commonplace anyway, the effort to use the proper pronouns can go a long way for individuals who have experienced discrimination or misgendering in past medical experiences.
Have the right resources.
Whether its therapy, mental health prescriptions, HIV/AIDS specialties or referrals to gender-affirming specialists; it’s important that you make connections with all of the resources your LGBTQ+ clients may need during their health journey. If your potential health care facility is associated with medical professionals that you know to be LGBTQ+-friendly and inclusive, chances are this practitioner is the same way.
For even more resources on safe, inclusive health facilities visit: cdc.gov/lgbthealth/links.htm.