Healthcare News & Insights

LGBTQ patients: 4 keys to providing treatment

It’s important to offer your LGBTQ patients the best care possible and help them be comfortable at your facility. But depending on how patients identify, there might be several different considerations that your providers and employees should keep in mind when interacting with and treating these patients. 

When it comes to patients who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex or asexual, your providers may have to work harder to make them feel comfortable. The LGBTQ community has consistently been mistreated in healthcare settings, so there can be a level of distrust present when they interact with medical professionals.

LGBTQ stigma

LGBTQ patients often face stigma when seeking medical treatment, which can cause them to avoid getting the care they need. Your staff members don’t need to become experts in every aspect of the LGBTQ community, but they should know how to make it clear to patients that they’re welcome and accepted at your organization, and will be treated with respect.

Medical Economics offers four ways to do so:

  1. Edit intake forms. Asking the right questions when patients come into your hospital is a simple way to welcome them and show you value their presence. Two key questions: What is your current gender identity? and What sex were you assigned at birth on your birth certificate? Offering a range of possible answers ensures you’re covering your bases, and knowing patients’ genders and assigned sex at birth shapes the care you’ll provide.
  2. Ask about preferences. Check with patients to see what pronouns they prefer, and use those pronouns consistently, regardless of the sex on the patient’s birth certificate. Once you know the preferred pronouns, make a note in the medical record to remind all staff members to use the right pronouns. When performing physical exams, explain what you’re doing beforehand and use the language patients use to refer to their bodies to avoid causing them additional pain or discomfort.
  3. Know yourself. If you know you won’t be comfortable serving gender-nonconforming and queer patients, refer them to a provider or facility that will. For those in rural areas, you may need to rely on telemedicine to find an appropriate physician or hospital.
  4. Provide a welcoming environment. Encourage employees to treat every patient who walks in with warmth and empathy, and consider posting a small rainbow flag to signify anyone is welcome. Offer staff workshops or training sessions on gender fluidity and treating LGBTQ patients so they know the specific challenges these patients face.

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