Researchers: Include sexual orientation, gender ID info in MU requirements

Using electronic health records to collect sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI) information could reduce health disparities of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) patients and improve communication between patients and their providers, according to a new research article in the journal LBGT Health.

LBGT patients often suffer from health disparities, including higher rates of sexually transmitted infections, HIV and behavioral health issues. Yet clinicians frequently fail to inquire about SOGI, meaning such disparities often go untreated. The problem is compounded by the fact that few providers are well versed in the unique healthcare needs of these patients.

However, if EHRs were used--as they are now to gather race, ethnicity, and tobacco use information--to gather the SOGI information, many of these disparities could be addressed, according to the authors, from Boston's Fenway Institute. Moreover, they said, the data bank of information could be used on a more global basis to compare outcomes once health information exchanges become established.     

The authors noted that there are challenges to using EHRs for this purpose, such as defining a vocabulary that works for most. The data collection also should be conducted with patient consent and in a standard format. Ideally this information also would be included in the Meaningful Use requirements.

"[I]f our government doesn't include SOGI data collection in Meaningful Use guidelines, we will miss a golden opportunity to systematically gather essential data on LGBT health. ... The benefits to patient care, medical knowledge, science, and public health that would accrue from SOGI data collection in EHR are significant," the authors said.

The Institute of Medicine was one of the first stakeholders to address this issue, recommending in 2011 that EHRs be used to gather data to address the unique healthcare needs of these patients. Several health systems, such as the University of California, Davis', have started to use their EHRs to collect SOGI information.  

To learn more:
- read the article