We recently received feedback from a transgender patient who sought care at our organization. She felt angry and disappointed to read her clinical treatment note and see repeated use of the wrong pronoun: “he” instead of “she.” Our failure to use the correct gender pronoun contributed to this patient feeling a lack of dignity and respect from our healthcare system. Feeling marginalized and devalued has very real implications for how individuals choose (or too often, choose not) to engage with a health care system. For underserved populations, this can lead to serious health disparities.
Incidents such as this serve as a powerful reminder of the importance of striving to create a health care experience where we value and incorporate all individuals’ identities and preferences into the delivery of their care. Sometimes we don’t get it right. We appreciate when our patients and families give us feedback so that we can do better.
As we work to achieve this goal, we want to share some updates on the ways we are working to improve the experiences for our LGBTQ+ patients and families:
Upgrades to Electronic Health Record System
One barrier to optimal care for our patients is that our record system doesn’t have the functionality to affirm a patient’s name or gender identity. That leaves clinical providers without the information they need and leaves our patients feeling disrespected.
We are happy to announce that when we upgrade our electronic health record system this fall it will allow our patients to select a preferred name, their gender identity, and affirming pronouns at the time of registration. This information will be accessible to all clinicians providing care.
LGBTQ+ Health Training
We are in the process of rolling out LGBTQ+ health training to our workforce.
We will offer this training in stages, from a 101 training for everyone to a more advanced health training for those who provide direct care. We’ve consulted with Dr. Rachel Inker and Leo Kline from the Community Health Centers of Burlington, and Samuel Lurie from Transgender Awareness Training and Advocacy to help us in this endeavor.
Patient and Family Advisory team
We have a thriving Patient and Family Advisory team with several transgender patient and family advisors working with us to continuously improve our systems and processes.
Their willingness to share experiences, stories and insights, and work in partnership with us to plan and make decisions is invaluable. If you are interested in becoming an advisor we’d love to hear from you – please visit our website and complete the online form to share your interest in learning more about the role.
The transgender community faces very real challenges in receiving equitable and decent health care. We are committed to providing the best possible care for all our patients and families, and we welcome and encourage your feedback. We value and appreciate your partnership.
Ryan Polly, PhD, is Manager of Talent Development and Equity, Diversity and Inclusion at the University of Vermont Medical Center.