Health system to include sexual orientation, gender info in EHRs

To improve the care provided to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender patients, questions about sexual orientation and gender identity soon will be "standardized demographic elements" in the University of California, Davis Health System's electronic health record systems, according to a June 17 announcement.  

The health system--located in Sacramento--will be the first academic health system in the nation to incorporate such information as standard elements in its EHR.

"LGBT individuals face significant health challenges that can be better addressed when a doctor's office is seen as a truly welcoming and understanding environment," the health system said in its announcement. "We're inviting patients to voluntarily share their gender identity and sexual orientation information to help us create an atmosphere in which we're able to provide the most knowledgeable and informed care possible."

Patients will be able to provide such information either in person during clinical visits or via the health system's online communication system, which is accessible to its 76,000 patients. Patients who share the information also can choose whether the information goes into the EHR.

UC Davis also is developing a physicians' list of health providers who self identify as "LGBT welcoming."

There have been concerns that EHRs may create additional complexities for providers treating LGBT patients because some of the fields in EHRs are not designed with LGBT patients in mind.  The Institute of Medicine was one of the first stakeholders to address the issue, recommending in 2011 that EHRs be used to gather data to address the unique health care needs of these patients.  

To learn more:
- read the announcement