In this paper I will discuss the disparities that the LGBT population faces today, and what we can do to overcome the issues. Such disparities are affecting people’s overall health which is counterproductive to the main objective in healthcare. HCP’s can provide better and more beneficial patient-centered care to the LGBT population as a whole. Empathy and compassion are at the core of the nursing profession, so discrimination, refusal to treat and abuse have no place in this industry. Why is the LGBT population not getting the exact same care as all other patients? This profession was built on providing patient-centered care in a safe space without any judgement or disparities getting in the way of affecting care.
Health disparities of the LGBT population
The term disparity encompasses many different meanings, but a “health care disparity” typically refers to differences between groups in health insurance coverage, access to and use of care, and quality of care (Orgera & Artiga, 2018). All American citizens deserve access to: nutritious food, safe housing, high-quality education, health insurance and culturally sensitive health-care providers (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Health). The latter is especially important to ensure that patients are provided with the utmost quality and culturally competent care.
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LGBT people are at a higher risk for facing health disparities because overall there is a lack of specific education and training of health care workers, a lack of clinical research on LGBT health-related issues and fear due to stigma, discrimination and institutional bias (LGBT health disparities, 2017). Some specific health disparities that the LGBT population face include; discrimination, refusal of treatment and different forms of abuse.
Discrimination itself or the mere fear of discrimination can deter LGBT people from seeking health care when appropriate. The fear of discrimination is toxic to proper healthcare and can prevent some individuals from seeking medical attention (Health, 2016, para. 3). This plays a key factor in the population not seeking out or receiving proper health screenings for cervical, breast and colorectal cancers, or mental health issues. LGBT people reported difficulty finding hormone replacement therapy, HIV prevention and treatment options, fertility and reproductive services and even just welcoming primary care services (US: LGBT people face healthcare barriers, 2018).
Building trust and rapport with your primary care provider and other medical personnel is essential to laying a good healthcare foundation. Many people do not disclose their sexual orientation because they do not want to subject themselves to discrimination and have their quality of care affected. According to a 2017 study, 8 percent of lesbian, gay and bisexual respondents and 29 percent of transgender respondents reported that an HCP had refused to see them because of their sexual orientation or gender identity (Mirza & Rooney, 2019). Refusal of medical treatment is the ultimate form of discrimination against the LGBT population. LGBT patients have even been victims of abuse according to another 2017 study; 30 percent said that a doctor or other health care provider used harsh or abusive language when treating them and 36 percent said that they experienced unwanted physical contact such as fondling, sexual assault or rape from a doctor or other health care provider (Mirza & Rooney, 2019).
Empathetic patient-centered care for LGBT individual’s
The most substantial way Healthcare Professionals can provide patient-centered care for LGBT individuals is to become more comfortable and confident with obtaining patient sexual histories. Many physicians and nurses are uncomfortable bringing up matters of sexuality or sexual practices and prefer to let the patient initiate the dialog. On the contrary though, and when done properly, initiating a conversation about sexuality and sexual behavior with a patient can promote trust, and provide the patient with necessary reassurance that the environment is safe and without prejudice (Health, 2016). Another way HCPs can provide better patient-centered care is to recognize whether or not they are presenting a non-judgmental attitude towards their patients. This goes for anyone working in the healthcare field. Providing quality care means being empathetic towards all patients. Medical care has nothing to do with an individual’s personal opinion about gender identity or sexual preference. That bias needs to be recognized and personally addressed in order to move forward positively. HCP’s can acquire more empathy and provide better patient care through more extensive education and specific training that pertains to the LGBT population.
Some Health Insurance companies, such as Cigna, are leading the way for LGBT individuals by providing the aforementioned specific training to over 600 of their clinicians. The company has created a National Medical Director for LGBT health and wellness and is working on expanding in-network access to transgender care (LGBT health disparities, 2017).
The Joint Commission recommends that health care facilities begin to transform the health care environment to be a more welcoming, safe, and inclusive environment for LGBT patients and their families (Rowe et al, 2019, para.7). But first the issue needs to be identified and understood before these changes are to be introduced and ultimately put into practice. Morals, ethics and understanding are constantly being questioned or provoked in the medical industry and before we consider anything, Healthcare professionals need to remember to first, do no harm.
- Health, L. (2016, September 14). The Fear of Discrimination in LGBT Healthcare. Retrieved from https://publichealth.wustl.edu/fear-discrimination-lgbt-healthcare/
- Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Health. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.healthypeople.gov/2020/topics-objectives/topic/lesbian-gay-bisexual-and-transgender-health
- LGBT Health Disparities. (2017, February). Retrieved May 26, 2019, from https://www.cigna.com/individuals-families/health-wellness/lgbt-disparities
- Mirza, S. A., & Rooney, C. (2019, May 16). Discrimination Prevents LGBTQ People from Accessing Health Care. Retrieved from https://www.americanprogress.org/issues/lgbt/news/2018/01/18/445130/discrimination-prevents-lgbtq-people-accessing-health-care/
- Orgera, K., & Artiga, S. (2018, August 08). Disparities in Health and Health Care: Five Key Questions and Answers. Retrieved from https://www.kff.org/disparities-policy/issue-brief/disparities-in-health-and-health-care-five-key-questions-and-answers/
- Rowe, D., Ng, Y. C., O’Keefe, L., Crawford, D., Holliday, R., Bonds, S., . . . Msn. (2019, March 27). Providers’ Attitudes and Knowledge of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Health. Retrieved from https://www.mdedge.com/fedprac/article/150550/health-policy/providers-attitudes-and-knowledge-lesbian-gay-bisexual-and
- US: LGBT People Face Healthcare Barriers. (2018, July 23). Retrieved May 26, 2019, from
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