EHRs should include sexual orientation info, IOM report says

Using electronic health records (EHRs) to gather data on sexual orientation and gender identity in federally funded surveys could help providers address specific healthcare issues among lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered (LGBT) individuals, according to a new report released by the Institute for Medicine (IOM).

These questions about sexual orientation and gender identity, however, should be standardized to allow for the comparison and combination of data across large studies to analyze the unique needs of the LGBT population, added the report, which was prepared for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to examine specific research needs.

Among one of the recommendations in the IOM report is that the Office of the National Coordinator (ONC) of Health IT include the collection of data of sexual orientation and gender as part of its Meaningful Use objective for EHRs to record demographics: This would mean that data on sexual and gender minorities would be included within the demographic information in the same way that race, language, and ethnicity data are now collected.

The report does acknowledge that asking individuals about their sexual orientation and gender identity could present a challenge for healthcare workers who may feel uncomfortable about asking patients about this information.

In addition, patients may be hesitant to discuss personal information on sexual orientation and gender identity. It could be perceived by some "as being more sensitive" than other information, reports the Los Angeles Times. The article also points out the dearth of health information about teen and elderly LGBT individuals, and individuals who are transgender and bisexual.

While questions designed to elicit this information have been developed and used, the IOM committee recommends that NIH support research to evaluate the questions and develop additional measures.

For more details:
- view a brief of the report
- see the Los Angeles Times article

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