Q: What are some of the important considerations for members of our families and communities as we recognize Pride Month?
A: Pride Month is an important time to show support for and celebrate the LGBTQ+ community. When it comes to healthcare, there are many ways we can create an inclusive and supportive environment for LGBTQ+ individuals and their families.
First, let’s focus on cultural competency and sensitivity. As providers, we must aim to be knowledgeable about LGBTQ+ health issues, including unique healthcare needs, health disparities, and social determinants of health that affect this population. It is essential that we respect and affirm diverse gender identities and sexual orientations.
The provider team at CirrusMD uses inclusive language, avoiding assumptions about gender and sexual orientation. For example, on the CirrusMD platform, patients can select their preferred pronouns, to immediately feel comfortable in the environment. Our physician network focuses on ongoing training and education, to continually increase understanding of LGBTQ+ health issues, terminology, and best practices. This training helps us provide better care to LGBTQ+ patients and their families.
We recognize LGBTQ+ individuals have unique healthcare needs, including sexual health, mental health, and gender-affirming care. We aim to be knowledgeable about these needs, offer appropriate services, and make appropriate referrals when necessary.
Our goal is to create an inclusive and supportive environment for LGBTQ+ individuals.
Q: Equality and diversity takes many forms. For example, it’s documented that non-white Americans are treated differently in healthcare. Do we also see healthcare-related impacts on the LGBTQ+ community?
A: We know that people want to be cared for by people that “look” like them, so it’s important to have a diverse network of physician providers to care for a diverse population.
We also recognize the LGBTQ+ community faces unique healthcare-related impacts and disparities. Similar to racial and ethnic minorities, LGBTQ+ individuals often experience discrimination, bias, and disparities in healthcare.
- LGBTQ+ individuals have higher rates of certain health conditions, such as mental health issues, substance abuse, and sexually transmitted infections. These disparities can be attributed to various factors, including stigma, discrimination, and limited access to inclusive healthcare.
- There are often delays in care. It may come from fear of discrimination, but we often see that LGBTQ+ individuals delay seeking care or avoid disclosing their sexual orientation or gender identity, resulting in delayed diagnoses, inadequate treatment, even reduced health outcomes.
- LGBTQ+ individuals face higher rates of mental health issues, such as depression, anxiety, and suicidal ideation. Minority stress, resulting from societal prejudice and discrimination, can contribute to these mental health disparities.
Addressing these health-related impacts on the LGBTQ+ community requires a commitment to inclusive and culturally competent care, education and training for healthcare providers, and increased access to LGBTQ+ healthcare services.
Q: How can a virtual care platform help deliver neutrality in healthcare?
A: Virtual care can contribute to greater neutrality in healthcare in a number of significant ways. First, a virtual care platform can deliver equal access, bridging geographical barriers and providing equal access to services. This can be especially beneficial for marginalized communities or individuals in remote areas who may have limited access to healthcare facilities.
Virtual care can reduce bias, helping mitigate unconscious bias that can arise from face-to-face interactions. By removing physical appearances and non-verbal cues as the primary basis of assessment, healthcare providers can focus more on the individual's medical history, symptoms, and needs, leading to more equitable care.
I often hear from my patients that they wouldn’t have felt comfortable discussing certain concerns because they were afraid of being judged. They found care through CirrusMD allowed a more anonymous approach, resulting from the chat-based encounter. It’s especially important for LGBTQ+ individuals or those with stigmatized health conditions to feel comfortable discussing personal matters remotely, without fear of judgment or disclosure.
Q: What are the Behavioral Health issues faced by members of the LGBTQ+ community? Are they more prevalent than in other groups?
A: The risks of mental health issues for members of the LGBTQ+ community are real. Modern Healthcare recently reported that over the past year, 42% of LGBTQ+ youth seriously considered suicide. Among transgender adolescents, suicide attempts may be as high as 35%. One study from the National Center for Transgender Equality found 40% of transgender individuals reported attempting to commit suicide at least once, most before the age of 25.
Providing unbiased virtual care can connect individuals facing mental health issues with resources that can help — quickly, equitably, and responsibly.
Q: What can employers do to help recruit and then support LGBTQ+ employees?
A: Create an inclusive environment; it’s vitally important to the health and well-being of all employees.
To recruit and support LGBTQ+ employees, employers can review practices and policies to ensure:
- There are clear non-discrimination policies that explicitly protect employees from discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression.
- Employee benefits packages are inclusive of LGBTQ+ individuals and their families. This may include offering healthcare coverage for gender-affirming procedures, providing partner benefits, or implementing policies that support gender transition processes.
- Diversity and inclusion training is provided to all employees, specifically addressing LGBTQ+ issues and fostering understanding, empathy, and cultural competency.
- Leaders and managers are encouraged to be visible allies and advocates for LGBTQ+ employees. Provide training to leaders on LGBTQ+ issues and equip them with the knowledge and skills to support their LGBTQ+ team members effectively.
- Authentically engage with LGBTQ+ organizations and initiatives in the community to demonstrate the employer's commitment to inclusivity.
- Offer resources that provide health and mental health support, including those tailored to the specific needs of LGBTQ+ employees.
Creating an inclusive work environment, and fostering a sense of belonging and support within the organization, creates a more positive community for all.