Paper Urges Physicians to Assess Practices for Care of LGBT Patients

Released: 2/21/2011 1:55 PM EST
Source: University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey (UMDNJ)

Jerry Carey
[email protected]

Newswise - STRATFORD, NJ - Noting that a patient's level of comfort and trust significantly impacts the type of medical care provided and received, a newly published paper outlines ways that physicians can examine how their own beliefs and practice habits affect their ability to treat lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) patients. The paper, which appears in the current issue of The Health Care Manager, outlines several minor but effective changes physicians can make to establish an office environment that is comfortable to all patients.

"LGBT patients can disproportionately experience social and behavioral risk factors that can affect health," said lead author Dr. Joshua Coren, a family physician at the UMDNJ-School of Osteopathic Medicine. "When evaluating these risk factors, physicians need to ask questions nonjudgmentally to avoid causing their LGBT patients to feel scrutinized or even stigmatized."

Among the authors' recommendations are changing background information forms by expanding gender identification and relationship preference categories, noting that when only two options are available transgendered patients may struggle to identify their gender or bisexual patients may not be able to accurately describe their polyamorous relationship with men and women. Other recommendations include instructing clerical staff on the use of gender-neutral terminology, training clinical staff on surgical modification procedures, providing at least one unisex bathroom and making LGBT publications available in the waiting room. Physicians should also become knowledgeable about community-based resources, such as LGBT-specific cancer support groups or mental health practitioners.

"Discrimination and marginalization by society have historically made it difficult for LGBT patients to obtain a level of health care that meets their needs," Coren noted. "Even with the best intentions in mind, a physician's misstep or awkward interaction can cause LGBT patients to withhold information that would be essential to accurate diagnostic and treatment recommendations."

To request an interview with Dr. Joshua Coren, please contact Jerry Carey, UMDNJ News Service, at (856) 566 6171 or (973) 972 3000.

The UMDNJ-School of Osteopathic Medicine is dedicated to providing excellence in medical education, research and health care for New Jersey and the nation. Working in cooperation with Kennedy University Hospital, its principal affiliate, the UMDNJ-School of Osteopathic Medicine places an emphasis on primary health care and community health services that reflect its osteopathic philosophy, with centers of excellence that demonstrate its commitment to developing clinically skillful, compassionate and culturally competent physicians from diverse backgrounds, who are prepared to become leaders in their communities.

The University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey (UMDNJ) is the nation's largest free-standing public health sciences university with more than 6,000 students attending the state's three medical schools, its only dental school, a graduate school of biomedical sciences, a school of health related professions, a school of nursing and its only school of public health on five campuses. Annually, there are more than two million patient visits at UMDNJ facilities and faculty practices at campuses in Newark, New Brunswick/Piscataway, Scotch Plains, Camden and Stratford. UMDNJ operates University Hospital, a Level I Trauma Center in Newark, and University Behavioral HealthCare, which provides a continuum of healthcare services with multiple locations throughout the state.