Sneak Peek: Introducing Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Into the Electronic Health Record

Here’s a preview of a soon-to-be-published perspective by Edward Callahan and his colleagues.

Introducing Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Into the Electronic Health Record: One Academic Health Center’s Experience
Edward J. Callahan, PhD, Nicole Sitkin, Hendry Ton, MD, W. Suzanne Eidson-Ton, MD, Julie Weckstein, MSW, and Darin Latimore, MD

Many minority populations experience serious health disparities despite the U.S. spending more per capita on health than any other nation. The Institute of Medicine recently highlighted health disparities experienced by those with minority sexual orientation (SO) and/or gender identity (GI). These disparities result in part from health care delivered by providers often unaware or unaccepting of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) patients. Increasing provider awareness of and education about SO/GI diversity among their patients could help reduce these disparities. The electronic health record (EHR) represents a potentially powerful tool for increasing provider awareness of SO/GI status among patients. This paper documents one academic health center’s experience as it became the first in the United States to formally add patient SO/GI to its EHR. Announcement of the plans to add SO/GI demographics to the EHR initially produced strong resistance. This resistance was viewed as an invitation to inform providers and administrators about the serious health disparities experienced by LGBT populations and to expose providers to techniques for discussion of SO/GI with patients. This work led to recognition of the need to improve institutional atmosphere for sexual minorities. Efforts to increase SO/GI cultural competence are now recognized as quality improvement initiatives in policies and care processes throughout the institution. The role of unconscious bias in fostering and reducing health care disparities is discussed. This article is offered for institutions considering launching programs to incorporate key demographics into the EHR in an effort to reduce LGBT or other health disparities.

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