LGBT health disparities closing--slowly

Although awareness has grown about disparities in care for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (GLBT) patients, much work remains to be done, according to physicians who spoke at the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) scientific assembly, MedPage Today reported.

"Some practices really don't know very many GLBT folk," said Joe Freund, M.D., a family physician in Des Moines, Iowa, who cares for a large base of GLBT patients. "What that may create is discomfort that is felt immediately by the patient."

And it's not just emotional discomfort that creates a problem, the article noted, but a lack of clinical recommendations for these populations as well. For example, Freund noted that family physicians sometimes forget that transgender women still have a prostate that needs to be examined, and that transgender men are still susceptible to breast cancer, he said.

Resources are emerging, however, to help physicians provide better care to GLBT patients. Examples include the Gay and Lesbian Medical Association and Fenway Health in Boston, as well as a Center of Excellence for Transgender Health at the University of California at San Francisco, MedPage noted.

Meanwhile, some healthcare providers are creating practices dedicated to (but not exclusive to) meeting GLBT patient needs. Such practices include AlphaBetterCare in New York and New Jersey as well as Novus Adult Care Services in Bethlehem, Pa.

While Nurse Practitioner Allen Smith gained some of the expertise he needed to open Novus by working at an HIV clinic earlier in his career, he explained to the Morning Call that the purpose of his practice is to close gaps in routine care for patients who are not HIV positive.

The practice's goal, as it is with any primary care provider, is to get the patient to feel comfortable enough to schedule the appointment, according to the newspaper,.

"If you don't get LGBT people to the door first, by the time they present, they'll present with a bad outcome," Henry Ng, president of the Gay and Lesbian Medical Association, told the Morning Call. "They'll come with a heart attack."

To learn more:
- read the article from MedPage Today
- see the article from the Morning Call