June 30, 2011 - HRC's Healthcare Equality Index Guides Efforts to Prepare for New Regulations
WASHINGTON - A report released today by the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) Foundation found an increasing number of U.S. healthcare facilities are working toward a more welcoming environment for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender patients, however work remains to be done to end discrimination against LGBT people in America's healthcare system.
The report details the results of the most recent Healthcare Equality Index, an annual survey administered by the Human Rights Campaign Foundation. The findings come from data voluntarily provided by 87 survey respondents, representing 375 facilities nationwide. This year's survey found that nearly 90 percent of survey respondents include sexual orientation in their Patient's Bill of Rights and/or non-discrimination policy, but only 60 percent include gender identity in these policies. Additionally, only 49 percent of respondents have an explicitly inclusive visitation policy granting equal access for same-sex couples and 52 percent have such a policy inclusive of same-sex parents.
The report comes after several landmark advancements in LGBT healthcare advocacy: In response to a memorandum from President Obama, the Department of Health and Human Services issued rules in January of this year requiring all hospitals that receive federal Medicare and Medicaid funding - nearly every hospital in America - to protect the visitation rights of LGBT people. Additionally, The Joint Commission will begin surveying on new LGBT-inclusive non-discrimination standards this July. In March, the Institute of Medicine (IOM) released a report highlighting health disparities and detailing the need for more federal research and data collection on the health of LGBT people. The authors of the report recommended collecting data on sexual orientation and gender identity in federal health surveys and just yesterday HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius announced the department will integrate questions on sexual orientation into national data collection efforts by 2013 and begin a process to collect information on gender identity.
As facilities transition to more LGBT-friendly policies and procedures, the HEI can serve as an organizational assessment tool by assisting hospitals in modifying their existing policies, and can help hospitals comply with Joint Commission hospital standards addressing non-discrimination and new HHS regulations on visitation.
"The new Joint Commission requirements and the IOM report underscore the need to provide equitable, knowledgeable care to LGBT patients and their families - and the HEI is a great guide for any facility pursuing this important goal. As a top performer from the HEI's inception, UCSF is delighted to see more facilities use its guidance to ensure that they're providing the best possible care to all," said Mark Laret, CEO of UCSF Medical Center and the UCSF Benioff Children's Hospital. "I encourage my colleagues across the country to make these policies part of their culture. Equal care is the essence of health care."
"The Healthcare Equality Index demonstrates that institutional change can occur when we commit to self reflection and assessment, and create an accountability framework around health equity. This is hard work and enables us all to continue our momentum towards improving the health of all," said Joanne Conroy, M.D., the Chief Health Care Officer of the Association of American Medical Colleges.
"Too many LGBT Americans are denied healthcare or are afraid to seek it because of discrimination and intimidation. We thank the HEI 2011 participants for their dedication to ensuring equal access to quality care for LGBT patients and their families," said Joe Solmonese, president of the HRC Foundation. "HEI participants understand that LGBT healthcare equality is a goal fundamental to the healthcare profession, and it is linked to key business incentives such as promoting quality care, reducing risk, complying with regulations, increasing market share and improving employee satisfaction."
The HEI helps LGBT patients find quality healthcare free of prejudice and discrimination and empowers patients to encourage healthcare professionals to embrace LGBT healthcare equality. As a companion to the Index, HRC produced two videos in order to show the difficulties LGBT patients may face and to help healthcare administrators understand why creating an environment welcoming of LGBT patients and their families is the right thing to do. Both videos can be viewed at www.hrc.org/hei.
In conjunction with the HEI report, the HRC Foundation has released a resource for those considering Healthcare Equality Index participation. This document serves as a "Call to Action" for healthcare administrators, further outlining the business and quality incentives for participating. Both the Healthcare Equality Index 2011 report and this companion resource are available online at www.hrc.org/hei.
The Human Rights Campaign is America's largest civil rights organization working to achieve lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender equality. By inspiring and engaging all Americans, HRC strives to end discrimination against LGBT citizens and realize a nation that achieves fundamental fairness and equality for all.