Many health systems have been re-examining their capabilities for providing services for the LGBTQ community. In May Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center started collecting gender identity data as part of its intake process.
"We can't know our patients unless we know who they are," said Chasity Burrows Walters, senior director of patient education and engagement at the cancer center. Gender is such a major part of most peoples' identity that having those conversations opens doors to better-informed treatments and outcomes, she added.
Data collection is also important from an organizational viewpoint in planning evidence-based programs and policies, said Barbara Warren, senior director for LGBT programs and policies in the Office for Diversity and Inclusion at Mount Sinai Health System. Its efforts to integrate sexual orientation and gender identity started nearly five years ago.
Health systems also have launched initiatives in LGBTQ health research in the past year. Last week Columbia University School of Nursing announced that it has opened the Center for Sexual and Gender Minority Health Research. Earlier this month Stony Brook Medicine launched a community survey program to ascertain the specific health needs, underlying conditions, access issues, and food and health security challenges that LGBT individuals on Long Island face.
"We have always heard of LGBT people hesitant to seek care for various reasons but have lacked the data to understand exactly their challenges," said Dr. Allison Eliscu, chief of adolescent medicine at Stony Brook Medicine, who led the study. "The more we know, the better care we can provide."
Improving services for the LGBT community isn't just about addressing current gaps; it's also about preparing future generations of healthcare professionals, said Dr. David Reich, president and chief operating officer of Mount Sinai Hospital.
Mount Sinai's LGBTQ+ medical fellowship begins its second year in July, this time supported by a grant from the American Medical Association, Reich said. The goal is to normalize providing LGBT care by consolidating its various efforts, such as its Center for Transgender Medicine & Surgery—established in 2016—with its various fellowships, he said.
At MSK, a group of nurse practitioners and physician assistants from its LGBTQ clinical advisory committee are gearing up for training on providing LGBT-sensitive services this fall, Walters said. Taught by gender-diverse practitioners at Columbia University, it will be the first of its kind in the city, she added.
The work to address LGBTQ health needs is ever changing, said Reich. The focus has shifted from HIV/AIDS in the 1980s to the intersectionality of social determinants of health, race and gender identity today, he said.
"LGBT health is population health, and we're learning addressing it is never a silo," he said.