Healthcare industry not addressing needs of GLBT patients, says HRC

The Human Rights Campaign Foundation released today the third annual Healthcare Equality Index (HEI) which showed a dramatic disparity between the number of patient non-discrimination policies inclusive of sexual orientation and those inclusive of gender identity.
“While many facilities are leading the way in fairness for LGBT patients and their families, on the whole, the healthcare industry is failing to adequately address the needs of our community,” said Human Rights Campaign Foundation President Joe Solmonese.  “But tools like the HEI can turn this trend around.  By helping to remove barriers and create truly welcoming healthcare environments, we can build a stronger, healthier community.”
The HEI is a national report that sets benchmarks and highlights best practices in healthcare facility policies for LGBT Americans.  View the full report at

The report shows that less than seven percent of participating facilities protect patients from discrimination based on gender identity, while nearly three-quarters of participants provide these protections based on sexual orientation. This finding is symptomatic of the healthcare discrimination faced by transgender Americans every day, from the explicit denial of healthcare services to insensitive remarks by medical staff.
“Tragically, the importance of protecting transgender patients and their families from healthcare discrimination is made clear to us time and time again when we hear stories of discrimination,” said transgender health advocate and HEI Advisory Council Member Dr. Rebecca Allison, a cardiologist practicing in Arizona.  “As healthcare providers, we have the responsibility to ensure that all of our patients are given the culturally competent care they need and the respect they deserve.  The policies and practices highlighted by the HEI provide a starting point for ensuring transgender competence.”
Ten of the 166 participants answered “yes” to each of the survey’s main criterion which applied to them, thereby establishing a set of model policies that will serve the entire healthcare industry.  The participation of all facilities is appreciated and seen as indicative of a commitment to furthering healthcare equality for LGBT patients and employees.

Vanderbilt Medical Center was the only hospital in Tennessee to participate in the study and answered "yes" to each of the survey’s applicable main criterion except for category 1b: "Gender Identity" in Patient's Bill of Rights and/or Patient Non-Discrimination Policy.
“We believe the growing level of participation we're seeing by hospitals and healthcare facilities across the country reflects a genuine interest in the healthcare industry to better understand and address the specific needs of LGBT patients.” said Jason Schneider, MD, President of the Gay and Lesbian Medical Association.  “We’re encouraged by this level of participation, and believe that the HEI is moving the healthcare industry toward policies, standards, and training that will ensure equal treatment for the LGBT community.”
Other key findings of the HEI include:
·         Visitation Policies. The HEI survey has identified model visitation policies that are explicitly inclusive of the LGBT community. These model policies will set the standard for credit on these questions in the future.
·         Advance Healthcare Directives. All HEI-participating facilities have compliance policies requiring the honoring of legally-valid advance healthcare directives. Unfortunately, LGBT individuals come forward with tragic stories of hospitals failing to recognize these directives, reflecting a disconnect between the existence of written policies and the actual implementation of these policies on the part of all personnel. Future HEI surveys will focus on staff training related to advance healthcare directives as a means to eliminating this disconnect.
·         Cultural Competency Training. Seventy-two percent of participating facilities provide cultural competency training addressing sexual orientation and healthcare issues relevant to lesbian, gay and bisexual community. Seventy-one percent of participating facilities provide cultural competency training addressing gender identity and healthcare issues relevant to transgender community.
·         Employment Non-Discrimination Policies. Ninety-eight percent of the participating facilities bar employment discrimination based on sexual orientation, while only 63 percent of those policies include “gender identity or expression” or “gender identity.”
The report is based on responses to an online survey, conducted October through December 2008, addressing patient non-discrimination and visitation policies; cultural competency training; recognition of legal documents between same-sex partners; and the protection of LGBT employees through fair employment policies.  The responses in the HEI 2009 report represent the policies of 166 facilities from across the country, including 93 hospitals and 73 clinics.
“We thank the participating facilities for their willingness to review their policies affecting the LGBT community, and laud them for the remarkable work they’ve already done,” said Solmonese.
In addition to the report, the HRC Foundation is releasing a new resource for healthcare lawyers and administrators entitled, “Breaking Down Barriers: An Administrator’s Guide to State Law  Best Policy Practice for LGBT Healthcare Access.”  Included in the document is an explanation of the issues most relevant to the equal treatment of the LGBT community, including hospital visitation access and medical decision-making rights.  The document provides model policies and best practice recommendations, as well as a review of the hospital policies submitted by HEI participants and research into relevant state healthcare law.  The document is available for download:
The Human Rights Campaign Foundation is America’s largest civil rights organization working to achieve lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender equality. By inspiring and engaging all Americans, HRC strives to end discrimination against LGBT citizens and realize a nation that achieves fundamental fairness and equality for all.
The Gay and Lesbian Medical Association has been working since 1981 to ensure equality in healthcare for LGBT patients and healthcare providers, through advocacy, education, research and patient referrals.

Photo by Margo Amala on Unsplash

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