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Wednesday, Oct. 9, 2013

News for Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Physicians

Collecting sexual identity on medical records

Collecting sexual identity on medical records

A person's sexual orientation and gender identity should be noted as part of the standard demographic information in patient records, thereby aiding future research efforts about medical and health issues among lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) patients, Sean Cahill and Harvey J. Makadon, MD, argue in a recent article in LGBT Health.

Others are less sure. "I think it's a two-edged sword," Pierre-Paul Tellier, MD, said in a Forbes article, citing that privacy can be a big concern if such a database is implemented while so many states lack laws barring discrimination against LGBT people.

"So if you have a national database that contains this information, then that is data that are going to be available to people who may not necessarily be open minded, may not necessarily be unbiased or unprejudiced," Dr. Tellier said.

While he agrees that privacy is important, Cahill argues that the need to educate competent medical providers is equally so. "If you can get providers to start asking their patients about sexual orientation, which can include behavior, attraction and identity, and then gender identity, it's also an opportunity to increase their cultural competency in providing health care to those populations," he said.

Dr. Tellier agrees that collecting this information could advance provider training but counters that this type of data still is extremely sensitive in other parts of the world. He interacts with students from all over the world, and he used the current anti-homosexual stance in Russia as an example.

In the end, the Gay and Lesbian Medical Association (GLMA), among others, favors data collection. "GLMA feels strongly that electronic health records should include information related to sexual orientation and gender identity because it will result in valuable information for researchers and providers about health disparities affecting lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people," Hector Vargas, executive director of GLMA, said.

CDC offers provider HIV screening resources

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) now recommends opt-out HIV screening for all patients ages 13 to 64. Opt-out screening means patients must be notified that screening will be done and offers the patient a chance to decline testing.

To help facilitate their recommendations, the CDC offers free HIV screening materials for physicians, including a resource kit, patient procure, recommendations guide and office poster.