LGBTQ+ adults more likely to delay, avoid care, Healthgrades survey finds

LGBTQ+ adults are less likely than cisgender, heterosexual adults to have had health screenings in the past year and are more likely to have skipped care, a new survey has found.

The poll, conducted by Healthgrades and OutCare Health, reached 952 LGBTQ+ adults and 1,049 cisgender, heterosexual adults and explored how LGBTQ+ adults access, perceive and experience care.

It found that in the past year, 25% of LGBTQ+ adults did not have any health screenings, compared to 20% of cisgender, heterosexual adults. Half of LGBTQ+ adults intentionally delayed, avoided or skipped an exam. They were 26% more likely to do so than cisgender, heterosexual people.

Fewer than half of LGBTQ+ patients feel like their doctor listens to them and are confident in communicating with their doctor, compared to more than 60% of cisgender, heterosexual people, the survey found. Just over a third of LGBTQ+ respondents feel respected by their doctor, much less than cisgender, heterosexual patients.

“This disparity shows that doctor-patient relationships aren’t as strong as they should be to help drive purposeful conversations that lead to productive care,” a report on the findings said. “If LGBTQ+ patients feel like they can’t turn to professional help when health concerns arise, they risk missing out on care that can improve their livelihoods and long-term health.”

Among LGBTQ+ people, nearly a third felt dismissed by their doctor and 15% have been told their symptoms were psychological, the latter at a rate 150% higher than that observed among cisgender, heterosexual people. One in 10 LGBTQ+ adults reported having experienced some form of medical discrimination. 

LGTBQ+ patients have a harder time covering medical expenses. Nearly half of LGBTQ+ adults surveyed said high healthcare costs prevent them from receiving the best possible care. They were 25% more likely than cisgender, heterosexual adults to say so. Nearly a quarter of LGBTQ+ people say lack of health insurance deterred them from getting high-quality care.

LGBTQ+ adults are also 67% more likely than cisgender, heterosexual people to say that feeling unsafe due to their gender identity prevents them from receiving excellent care. A fear of being discriminated against for this reason prevented 6% of LGBTQ+ respondents from getting optimal care—translating to more than a million Americans. 

When it comes to trust, LGBTQ+ adults trust primary care doctors and specialists about 30% less than cisgender, heterosexual people. LGBTQ+ adults said they trusted the general healthcare system 94% less and insurance companies 100% less.

To mend these relationships, the report said, stakeholders “have to step up and become more proactive in engaging with these patients in ways that are meaningful, respectful, honest and compassionate.” 

In a past Healthgrades’ cultural competency report, 85% of doctors considered themselves ready to care for patients of diverse gender identities or sexual orientations. But when they tested with LGBTQ+ related health questions, doctors scored an average of 51% in competency, according to a study by OutCare Health.

Proper LGBTQ+ education requires 35 or more hours of field experience and in-class learning, while the average healthcare curriculum on the population is about two hours. “Doctors barely scratch the surface of what it takes to feel confident and ready to care for LGBTQ+ patients” in the way they deserve, the report said.

To address this population's concerns, the report recommended that hospital marketers integrate LGBTQ+ patient reviews in their health system that highlight affirming doctors who provide quality care. The report also recommended that a brand’s website uses inclusive language and that hospital and pharma marketing features more same-sex couples in ads. Hospitals are advised to pursue partnerships with LGBTQ+ organizations, integrate mental health service offerings into campaigns to support LGBTQ+ patients’ well-being and recommend that doctors engage in LGBTQ+ education and training.

Healthgrades and OutCare Health recently partnered to launch a new LGTBQ+ affirming care designation on Healthgrades’ site, identifying healthcare professionals committed to providing treatment and affirming health services to LGBTQ+ communities.