AHIMA: Patient portals, data management integral to engaging LGBT patients

Patient Portal
Patient portals are a "powerful tool" in reducing care disparities among LGBT patients.

Federal initiatives have prioritized efforts to reduce care disparities for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) populations that are often susceptible to depression, substance abuse and sexually transmitted infection, and one national informatics association suggested IT systems can help.

A new policy brief released by the American Heath Information Management Association (AHIMA) offers guidance to health information management professionals, noting that widespread efforts train clinicians and collect information among LGBT populations will require IT systems to adapt to manage a new influx of patient data.

Experts have previously argued that innovation and collaboration will be key to overcoming health disparities among LGBT patients.

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“When a healthcare environment is accessible, sensitive and respectful, patients are more likely to share details of their personal health information that are needed to provide the best patient care and safety,” AHIMA CEO Lynne Thomas Gordon said in a press release. “As healthcare populations become more diverse, a focus on inclusiveness for all patient populations will promote patient engagement and help to reduce health disparities. In turn, this will help ensure health information can be found where and when it is needed.”

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For example, as more providers use EHRs to document preferred names and pronouns for transgender patients, systems should be designed to prominently display those preferences. EHRs should also incorporate discrete data points such as gender identity and sexual orientation which will assist clinicians in providing appropriate care.

AHIMA added that significant challenges remain for LGBT patients regarding partner or spouse rights and parental rights. The association said patient portals are a “powerful tool” in addressing this problem by allowing patients to self-report data, and recommended LGBT partners and spouses exchange login information.