Last time on Queer Health, Will wrote a nice piece describing his research on the realities of LGBTQ issues in the health care field. In a nicely timed coincidence the Human Rights Campaign just released the results of their 2012 Healthcare Equality Index (HEI), which seeks to determine how many hospitals and private practices across the US address the specific needs of the LGBTQ community. The results of this study sadly aren’t all that surprising: We’ve still got a long way to go.
The HEI’s measurements are based on four “core” criteria:
Patient Non-Discrimination Policies
1a) Patient non-discrimination policy is publicly available and includes the term “sexual orientation”
1b) Patient non-discrimination policy is publicly available and includes the term “gender identity”
2a) Visitation policy explicitly grants same-sex couples the same access as different-sex couples
2b) Visitation policy explicitly grants same-sex parents the same access as different-sex parents for their minor children
Employment Non-Discrimination Policies
3a) Employment non-discrimination policy includes the term “sexual orientation”
3b) Employment non-discrimination policy includes the term “gender identity”
Training in LGBT Patient-Centered Care
4) Provides training for key staff members in LGBT patient-centered care
Of the 122 respondents, representing 407 different facilities, 71 of them (or 234 facilities, 57% of the total) answered “yes” to all of the above criteria, labeling them as “leaders in LGBT healthcare equality”. If we break down the results further, we see that over 90% ban discrimination against LGB patients, while only 76% do the same for transgender patients. Furthermore, about 75% provided equal visitation rights for same-sex couples and parents.
The final area concerning training is perhaps the one which holds the most promise for creating equality. Of the hospitals surveyed, 67% provide or require LGBT issues training for administrator-level staff, which is a number far increased from years past.
The results of this study highlight the work yet to be done by the LGBTQ community. The numbers listed above hold promise, but keep in mind the fact that only a fraction of hospitals in the US actually participated in this survey, meaning we still don’t have data on many of the healthcare facilities out there. However, even in light of this, there is still a ray of hope. The number of affirmative responses for each individual criterion increased from 2011, meaning that while there’s still a marathon ahead of us, the issue is finally gaining visibility in the mainstream culture, and things are getting better. As HRC president Chad Griffin stated,
Just a few short years ago the healthcare industry wasn’t having conversations about LGBT healthcare equality. Now, thanks to the advocacy by the LGBT community and some standout leaders, growing numbers of healthcare providers are making an explicit commitment to treat all patients with dignity and respect. The healthcare industry is beginning to heed the call for fairness and compassion.
Queer Health is a bi-monthly feature that shares information about important health issues. Look for Queer Health every 2nd and 4th Saturday of the month.