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As an LGBTQ+ patient, you should be able to expect the same high-quality care provided to all patients. Unfortunately, this doesn’t necessarily always prove to be the case. There remains a notoriously significant disparity in healthcare outcomes for LGBTQ+ patients, often related to issues with discrimination among providers.

Even when you find a good physician, this doesn’t mean that everyone interacting with your healthcare information will be as respectful or responsible. It is, therefore, important to be vigilant about how your data is handled. You have a right to privacy just as you have an expectation of fair treatment.

Let’s take a closer look at how you can effectively safeguard your medical information as an LGBTQ+ patient.

Select Your Providers Carefully

Being selective about your choice of medical providers is always important. Primarily, of course, you should be mindful of the level of care each potential professional is likely to provide. This is something that’s particularly relevant to those in the LGBTQ+ community, as quality can vary depending on the provider’s personal biases. Nevertheless, it is also important to be selective about your providers from the perspective of how secure your medical information is likely to be.

It can be wise to reach out to friends in the community. Ask about their experiences with local healthcare providers and how their sensitive data has been handled. If possible, enquire about the response when coming out to their doctor and how this information was recorded in their medical records. Look at online reviews and assess reports about facilities’ past data breaches.

This certainly requires some upfront research effort on your part. However, being vigilant at this stage isn’t just a way to protect your data. It’s also an investment in your comfort and mental well-being. After all, choosing a supportive and considerate care professional means you can talk to them about any challenges you may be facing with confidence and peace of mind.

Insist on Control of Your Data

It’s important to understand that you have a significant amount of control over your care as a patient. Not only can you request second opinions and alternative providers when you feel they’re necessary. You can also make requests about the flow of your data across the care network. Remember that the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) respects patients’ wishes on how their information is handled.

From an individual practice perspective, this can involve having frank and open conversations with your doctor about the storage and movement of records within the facility. Gain an understanding of how your information is stored and who has access to it. If you have objections to the processes or even certain staff members, you can make stipulations about limiting access unless in specific circumstances.

The control of your data becomes especially important when you are utilizing care across a range of collaborating providers. Ensuring all relevant professionals have access to your medical records is an essential part of coordinating your medical care between multiple parties. This will often include information about your entire treatment history and any notes. Nevertheless, your role in this also includes communicating clearly with your doctor about any concerns or requests you have.

Explain what elements of your records you do not want to be provided to third parties unless medically necessary. You can also request that records are only shared and used in a secure electronic manner. This ensures paper copies of sensitive personal information aren’t left laying around, potentially being accessed by medical staff with negative biases.

Utilize Strong Security Measures

Protecting your medical information as an LGBTQ+ patient is not just the responsibility of your medical providers. There will also be times that you interact with your sensitive medical data. It’s important to ensure you’re always taking cybersecurity and physical safeguarding actions to protect your privacy.

It is certainly your right as a patient to access and keep physical copies of your medical records. It may be wise to keep these in a securely locked filing cabinet when not in use. You must also be careful when disposing of these records, though. Recycling personal papers may seem environmentally friendly, but it puts your sensitive data at risk. Make certain you shred your papers first, which mitigates the potential for your information to be read or copied. From here, you may need to locate a specialist recycling facility that accepts shredded documents.

In many cases, though, accessing medical records occurs online. This may be through being emailed by your provider or exchanging via telemedical applications. Utilize secure online practices when using these services. If you are accessing records on public Wi-Fi, make certain you’re using a virtual private network (VPN). Wherever possible, activate multi-factor authentication on your medical accounts and choose strong passwords.

Final Thoughts

Safeguarding your medical data is important both for your privacy and to ensure you receive the unbiased care you deserve. Take the time to research providers and their history of data breaches. Talk to your doctors about your preferences related to any record sharing. Remember to utilize strong security measures when personally interacting with your records. By taking a few effective actions, you can be confident that your information is only accessed and used for positive purposes.

Photo courtesty of Cecilie Johnsen on Unsplash

LGBTQ+ Healthcare Issues

The Dobbs decision, otherwise known as the court case that overturned Roe v. Wade, has resulted in confusing medical situations for many patients. On top of affecting access to abortions for straight, cisgender women, it presents heightened risks for LGBTQ+ healthcare as a whole. Flipping the switch on reproductive rights and privacy rights is a far-reaching act that makes quality care harder to find for an already underserved community.

As the fight against the Dobbs decision continues, it’s important to shed light on the full breadth of its impact. We’ll discuss specific ways that the decision can affect LGBTQ+ healthcare and offer strategies for overcoming these challenges.

How the Right to Bodily Privacy Affects LGBTQ+ Healthcare

When the original Roe v. Wade decision was made, the bodily privacy of people across the United States was protected. Now that bodily autonomy is no longer guaranteed, the LGBTQ+ community must brace itself for a potential loss of healthcare rights beyond abortions. This includes services like feminizing and masculinizing hormone therapy (particularly for transgender youth) that conservative lawmakers have been fighting against this year, as well as transition-related procedures. Without privacy, gender-affirming care may be difficult to access without documentation of sex as “proof” of gender.

As essential services for the LGBTQ+ community become more difficult to access, perhaps the most immediate effect we’ll see is eroding trust between healthcare providers and LGBTQ+ patients. When providers aren’t working in the best interest of patients — just like in cases of children and rape victims denied abortions — patients may further avoid preventative care in a community that already faces discrimination in doctor’s offices.

The Dobbs Decision Isn’t Just a Women’s Issue

While the Dobbs decision is often framed as a women's issue — specifically, one that affects cisgender women — it impacts the transgender and non-binary community just as much. All people who are capable of carrying a pregnancy to term have lost at least some ability to choose whether or not to give birth in the U.S.

For transgender and non-binary individuals, this decision comes with the added complexity of body dysmorphia. Without abortion rights, pregnant trans men and some non-binary people may be forced to see their bodies change, and be treated as women by healthcare providers and society as a result.

The Dobbs decision also opens up the possibility for government bodies to determine when life begins — and perhaps even to add legal protections for zygotes and embryos. This puts contraceptives at risk, which could make it more difficult to access gender-affirming care while getting the right contraceptives based on sex for LGBTQ+ individuals.

Overturning Reproductive Rights Puts IVF at Risk

Queer couples that dream of having their own children often have limited options beyond adoption. One such option is in vitro fertilization, or IVF, which involves implanting a fertilized egg into a uterus.

While IVF isn’t directly affected by the Dobbs decision, it could fall into a legal gray area depending on when states determine that life begins. Texas, for example, is already barring abortions as early as six weeks. To reduce embryo destruction, which often occurs when patients no longer want more children, limits could be placed on the number of eggs that can be frozen at once.

Any restrictions on IVF will also affect the availability of surrogacy as an option for building a family.

How Can LGBTQ+ Individuals Overcome Healthcare Barriers?

While the Dobbs decision may primarily impact abortion rights today, its potential to worsen LGBTQ+ healthcare as a whole is jarring. So how can the community be prepared?

If you’re struggling to find LGBTQ+-friendly providers near you, using telemedicine now can be an incredibly effective way to start developing strong relationships with far-away healthcare professionals. Telemedicine eliminates the barrier of geography and can be especially helpful for accessing inclusive primary care and therapy. Be sure to check if your insurance provider covers telemedicine.

If you’re seriously concerned about healthcare access in your area — especially if the Dobbs decision affects your whole state or you need regular in-person services that may be at risk — it may be time to consider moving now. While not everyone has the privilege to do so, relocating gives you the ability to settle in areas where lawmakers better serve your needs. However, this decision shouldn’t be taken lightly, so preparing and making progress on a moving checklist now can help you avoid issues later.

The Dobbs Decision Isn’t LGBTQ+-Friendly

The Supreme Court of the United States has proven the power of its conservative majority with the overturning of Roe v. Wade. However, the effects of the Dobbs decision don’t stop at affecting cisgender women’s abortion rights. In states with bans, it also leads to forced birth for trans men and non-binary individuals. Plus, the Dobbs decision increases the risk of other rights, like hormone therapy and IVF, being taken away.

Taking steps now, whether it’s choosing a virtual provider or considering a move, can help you improve your healthcare situation in the future.