LGBTQ+ patients know less about preventive care and coverage than the general population, survey finds

LGBTQ+ patients feel less knowledgeable about preventive care compared to the general population and are less likely to recognize its importance in health management, a new report says.

Phreesia Life Sciences, which develops patient intake software, and independent agency Klick Health conducted two surveys, one of the general patient population and one of members of the LGBTQ+ community, to compare disparities in perceptions of care. They found that while the latter are more likely to be aware of preventive care for conditions associated with their community, like HIV, they are notably less likely to know about other conditions like high blood pressure, high cholesterol or cancer. This is even further exacerbated for certain sub-populations, like non-cisgender or female-identifying patients. 

A quarter of LGBTQ+ patients surveyed said they do not feel confident that they know what preventive screenings they need. Nearly half said they did not feel confident that they knew what cancer screenings to schedule. “Life sciences have missed an opportunity where they have been very active in the LGBTQ+ space around a very limited number of conditions that are over-associated with the community,”  Amy Gomez, senior vice president of diversity strategy at Klick, said in an interview “We can and need to do a better job of including the community in our healthcare research in general.”

While half of the general population has complete coverage of preventive care, less than a third of LGBTQ+ patients do, the survey also found. Additionally, 3% of the general population is completely uninsured, compared to 14% of the LGBTQ+ population. Providers and payers should be looking to educate patients and members about their health and coverage benefits.

“There’s a lot more that can be done right now,” Thea Briggs, associate director of content strategy at Phreesia, told Fierce Healthcare. 

Though more than half knew about preventive care services, notably fewer had actually recently used those services. Less than a third got screened for HIV in the past year, compared to nearly two-thirds knowing about it. Accessibility or affordability challenges could explain this gap. Members of the LGBTQ+ community also encounter discrimination and bias that may make them less likely to seek care. 

“Even the fear that an appointment will go badly can prevent a patient from getting care,” Briggs said. “If there’s enough confusion that can often be enough to dissuade folks from taking action.”

Enhanced physician education, patient support, inclusive messaging and screening reminders, as well as representation at the point of care could improve LGBTQ+ equity in the preventive health space, the report suggested. Since physicians are a trusted source of information, it is imperative they focus on holistic care as opposed to recommending screenings for selective conditions.