This is the second in a two-part blog series on essential hospitals’ commitment to LGBTQ care.

Essential hospitals have long shown a commitment to care for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer or questioning (LGBTQ) patients. But while the hospital industry has made great strides in improving access to essential services for members of the LGBTQ community, disparities remain.

Since 2010, the Human Rights Campaign has released the Healthcare Equality Index (HEI), an annual report measuring policies and practices designed to support LGBTQ inclusion in health care settings. The voluntary survey scores facilities’ current policies and practices and shows gaps where there is room for improvement. Providers that earn a score of 100 on the HEI are designated as LGBTQ Healthcare Equality Leaders.

In 2018, more than 80 essential hospitals participated in the HEI. The annual report highlights innovative programs at Temple University Health System, in Philadelphia, and The MetroHealth System, in Cleveland.

MetroHealth’s Pride Clinic provides an array of services to LGBTQ patients, including:

  • primary care;
  • disease risk reduction and prevention;
  • chronic disease management;
  • behavioral health services; and
  • sexually transmitted infection screenings.

The clinic has grown from a once-weekly offering that served about 100 patients to a network that serves more than 1,700 patients at several locations. Further, MetroHealth changed its medical record documentation to include preferred pronouns, a vital step toward making transgender patients feel more comfortable.

Launching Kidz Pride

Terry Stancin, PhD, a pediatric clinical psychologist, spearheaded the effort to launch the Kidz Pride Clinic at at The MetroHealth System, in Cleveland.

While the Pride Clinic primarily focuses on adult care, the Kidz Pride Clinic was created in 2008 to respond to the needs of LBGTQ youth. Kidz Pride is the first interprofessional set of providers in Ohio with a focus on transgender or gender nonconforming children. Terry Stancin, PhD, a pediatric clinical psychologist, spearheaded the children’s clinic after a family with a 9-year-old gender nonconforming child reached out to her colleague for health care resources. Stancin went on to receive the Schwartz Center for Compassionate Healthcare 2018 National Compassionate Caregiver of the Year Award.

Outside the clinic, Stancin works to boost awareness and acceptance of transgender children through educational opportunities for providers. She also created opportunities for LGBTQ stakeholders — including community organizations, parents, and children — to offer input on improving services and encouraging information sharing across the health system.

The work of the Kidz Pride Clinic as nothing short of lifesaving. Transgender youth are at an extremely high risk of attempting suicide and other self-harm, and Kidz Pride gives them a safe place to receive appropriate care.

“Kids may only get tolerance in other parts of their lives,” Stancin says. “From a health care provider, they need acceptance.”

Spreading Inclusivity

As essential hospitals nationwide work to make their facilities more inclusive for all, LGBTQ care leaders at Temple and MetroHealth emphasize the importance of teamwork and an integrated approach to improving policies. In a complex health system, it is important to involve a wide variety of stakeholders to ensure changes occur at all levels and have the support of crucial individuals, from leadership to clinical staff and beyond.

Community involvement is also important to help LGBTQ individuals improve their health and wellbeing outside the hospital walls. For example, MetroHealth hosted a job fair to help connect transgender individuals with employment opportunities, and Temple offers no-cost advance directive counseling for members of the LGBTQ community.

Essential hospitals are adept at recognizing and adapting to community needs to ensure that they provide clinically effective, evidence-based solutions in an inclusive and culturally competent way. They continue to lead the way in ensuring that all patients — including those in the LGBTQ community — can receive the care they need when they need it.