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The Impact of Inclusive Healthcare on the LGBTQ+ Community: A Focus for Pride Month 2024

June 25, 2024

As we celebrate Pride Month, we honor the contributions and resilience of the LGBTQ+ community. Pride is also a time to reflect on how healthcare systems can better serve this diverse population through inclusive healthcare practices. By understanding the social determinants of health and adjusting care to meet the needs of diverse individuals, we can significantly improve health outcomes and patient satisfaction across the spectrum. This goes beyond ethics and standards of care—it can be the difference between receiving timely, effective treatment and suffering from preventable health issues.  


Understanding the Need for Inclusive Healthcare

LGBTQ+ individuals often face unique challenges and disparities in healthcare. Imagine the impact on a patient's well-being if they fear judgment or discrimination from the very people entrusted with their care. These barriers can lead to poorer health outcomes and higher rates of chronic conditions, mental health issues, and delayed diagnoses.

Discrimination and Stigmatization 

According to the Center for American Progress, 1 in 3 LGBTQ+ individuals have faced discrimination in healthcare settings. This discrimination can take many forms, from overt prejudice to subtle biases. LGBTQ+ patients may encounter healthcare professionals who hold discriminatory beliefs, which can result in substandard care or outright denial of necessary medical services. This stigmatization can discourage individuals from seeking care when they need it, exacerbating health issues and contributing to a cycle of poor health outcomes. 

Despite existing protections, LGBTQ people face disturbing rates of health care discrimination—from harassment and humiliation by providers to being turned away by hospitals, pharmacists, and doctors.” 

Center for American Progress 

Lack of Understanding and Awareness 

Many healthcare providers may lack adequate training and knowledge about the specific health needs and concerns of LGBTQ+ individuals. This gap in understanding can lead to misdiagnoses, inappropriate treatment plans, and a general lack of empathy and support. For example, transgender patients may not receive appropriate guidance on hormone therapy, and gay men might not be properly informed about HIV prevention methods like PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis). 

Limited Access to Culturally Competent Care 

Access to culturally competent care – healthcare that is respectful of and tailored to an individual's cultural background – is crucial for effective treatment. LGBTQ+ patients often struggle to find providers who are knowledgeable about their unique health issues and who create a welcoming environment. This lack of access can deter regular medical visits, preventative screenings, and necessary treatments, all of which are vital for maintaining good health. 


The Consequences of Healthcare Disparities 

LGBTQ+ persons often face disadvantages in receiving health care. They are less likely to seek medical care until they have a serious health issue because of fear of discrimination or cost, are less likely to have health insurance, and experience extensive mistreatment or discrimination from health professionals.” 

 American Journal of Public Health (AJPH) 


Higher Rates of Chronic Conditions 

LGBTQ+ individuals may experience higher rates of chronic diseases such as diabetes, hypertension, and cardiovascular diseases. This can be partly due to the stress of living with ongoing discrimination and a lack of supportive healthcare. 

Increased Mental Health Issues 

The LGBTQ+ community faces a higher prevalence of mental health issues, including depression, anxiety, and suicidal ideation. In fact, according to McLean Hospital, “Members of the LGBTQ+ community are more than twice as likely as heterosexual people to experience a mental health condition in their lifetime.” These conditions are often exacerbated by experiences of stigma and isolation. 

Delayed Diagnoses and Treatment 

Amino Health shared that 1 in 6 LGBTQ+ adults report avoiding healthcare due to anticipated discrimination, and over 30% lack a regular doctor, "a rate three times higher than their heterosexual counterparts." 

Fear of discrimination or past negative experiences can cause LGBTQ+ individuals to delay seeking medical help, resulting in late diagnoses of conditions that could have been managed more effectively if caught earlier. A simple example could be an LGBTQ+ person avoiding a routine checkup due to anxieties about their sexual orientation, potentially missing early signs of a treatable condition. 



The Widespread Impact of Inclusive Healthcare   

Inclusive healthcare practices address these disparities by creating a welcoming and supportive environment for all patients, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity. 

The impact of our efforts around creating a welcoming environment for all people, through our focus on those often the most marginalized within the LGBTQ+ community has been immense.

From a patient perspective, which is the most important, we have seen greater comfort with the utilization of our services from the community in multiple locations."

human rights campaign Healthcare Equality Index 2024

Valleywise Health, Arizona


Improved Patient Trust and Communication 

Patients who feel understood and respected are more likely to communicate openly and honestly with their healthcare providers. This open communication leads to more accurate diagnoses and effective treatment plans. A trusting patient relationship allows for a more collaborative approach to healthcare, where both patient and provider work together towards optimal health outcomes. 

Higher Patient Satisfaction 

Inclusive practices contribute to higher levels of patient satisfaction. Patients who feel valued and respected are more likely to have positive healthcare experiences and continue seeking necessary medical care. Positive experiences lead to better patient engagement, crucial for long-term health management. 

Better Health Outcomes 

Research shows that inclusive healthcare environments improve health outcomes for LGBTQ+ patients. This includes lower rates of depression and anxiety, reduced instances of HIV and other sexually transmitted infections, and better management of chronic diseases. Improved health outcomes benefit individuals and reduce the overall burden on healthcare systems. 

Increased Preventative Care 

Inclusive healthcare can encourage more LGBTQ+ individuals to seek regular health screenings and preventive care. Early detection of health issues is crucial for effective treatment and improved long-term health. Preventative care empowers patients to take a proactive role in managing their health.


Strategies for Implementing Inclusive Healthcare 

Creating an inclusive healthcare environment requires deliberate actions and policies. Here are some strategies that healthcare providers and organizations can implement: 

Cultural Competency Training 

Ongoing training for healthcare staff on LGBTQ+ issues and cultural competency is essential. This training should cover topics like respectful communication, understanding unique health needs, and addressing unconscious biases. 

Gaining awareness of our unconscious biases and making shifts in our everyday language doesn’t happen overnight. Health care industry businesses can help their staff be better allies to the LGBTQIA2+ community by providing access to workshops delivered by community members."

Harvard medical school corporate learning


Inclusive Policies and Practices 

Healthcare facilities should implement non-discrimination policies that explicitly include sexual orientation and gender identity. These policies should be clearly communicated to staff and patients. Also, intake forms and electronic health records should allow for data collection on gender identity and sexual orientation in a respectful and inclusive way. By doing so, healthcare providers can better tailor their services to meet the unique needs of LGBTQ+ patients. It's important to regularly review these policies to ensure they remain effective and aligned with current best practices.

Creating Safe Spaces 

Creating a safe space for LGBTQ+ individuals in healthcare involves actively listening to their needs and ensuring all staff are trained in inclusive, respectful communication. Implementing policies that protect against discrimination and providing access to LGBTQ+ specific resources and support are crucial steps in fostering an inclusive environment. Additionally, using visual cues like offering gender-neutral restrooms and prominently displaying LGBTQ+ health resources can signal a welcoming and supportive atmosphere.

While you may not be able to solve all of someone’s problems, helping a patient feel
comfortable in what may be a tense time is an important role for health care workers. Referring an uninsured LGBT person to get help enrolling for care, helping a patient deal with billing problems, making an LGBT patient comfortable with the idea of talking about confidential health issues, and providing good information about health care options are examples of how to apply basic everyday job skills to improve an LGBT individual’s access to care."

National LGBT Health Education Center

Community Engagement and Support 

Partnering with LGBTQ+ organizations and participating in community events can help build trust and demonstrate a commitment to inclusivity. Building relationships with LGBTQ+ organizations allows healthcare providers to better understand the specific needs of their community. Hosting educational workshops, sponsoring LGBTQ+ events, and providing outreach services can further establish a healthcare provider as a supportive and inclusive entity within the community. Engaging with the community not only helps in understanding their needs but also in addressing barriers to care, thereby improving overall health outcomes for LGBTQ+ individuals. 



Celebrating Pride Month by Promoting Inclusive Healthcare  

This Pride Month, we celebrate the diversity and resilience of the LGBTQ+ community. By committing to inclusive healthcare practices, we can ensure that all patients receive the compassionate, respectful, and competent care they deserve. At GHR Healthcare, we are dedicated to supporting healthcare professionals & facilities in creating inclusive environments that lead to better patient outcomes. Together, we can positively impact the health and well-being of every individual we serve. 


For a comprehensive list of resources for members of the LGBTQIA+ community, we highly recommend visiting The Trevor Project online and using their curated list of mental health, support, and other resources! 


Read More: Celebrating the Triumphs and Challenges of LGBTQIA+ Healthcare Workers | GHR Healthcare 



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