3 Tips for Protecting Your Medical Information as an LGBTQ+ Patient

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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 by Tanushree Rao on Unsplash

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