Transgender patients need more access to competent, compassionate care

Routine aspects of medical care such as filling out forms and finding the restroom aren't so straightforward for patients who are transgender. Taking steps to make practices more lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT)–friendly don't just make patients feel more welcome, but also could mean the difference between people getting or skipping needed care, according to a story from NPR.

"Trans folks, particularly trans folks who own vaginas and cervixes, need to access women's health services," said Jayeson Watts, head of a new Trans Health program at Thundermist Community Health Center in Rhode Island. "And those experiences can be really uncomfortable, and could be somewhat traumatizing."

As a result, a "big percentage" of trans adults put off going to the doctor, added Thundermist CEO Chuck Jones. Many also have difficulty finding physicians who are competent to handle their unique medical issues, to do so with sensitivity or are willing to provide their care at all, he said.

Patients of Thundermist's Anna Phillip, M.D., on the other hand, said they appreciate having their identities respected, including on forms, and building trusting relationships that make frequent visits more pleasant than they may have experienced elsewhere.

At times, transgender patients may also rely on healthcare providers to help advocate for them with insurance companies for certain services, such as a Pap test for a patient who identifies as a male, Ward Carpenter, M.D., who practices at the Los Angeles LGBT Center, recently told the Los Angeles Times. "We end up having to do a lot of fighting with them," he said. Last month, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced proposed rules that would bar insurance companies from denying services based on a person's gender identity, the article noted.

In many regions, patients have limited options to access transgender care, according to the Times, and resort to "basically getting care on the streets." Medical schools should train more doctors in the specialty, transgender health advocates say.

To learn more:
- read the article from NPR
- see the story from the Los Angeles Times