There has been an increase in the acceptance of LGBTQ members from the general practitioner world in the last 10 years. However, treatment for medical issues of this specific group hasn’t exactly evolved. Most doctors will treat LGBTQ patients the same way they do with heterosexual patients. They are not exactly equipped to handle health concerns unique to the LGBTQ community.
There are many conditions ranging from mental health to physical health that doctors will overlook because they aren’t looking at the complexity of being LGBTQ. Media and other factors can play a big role in distorting the viewpoint of others, even in the professional field. What most doctors don’t see is that not only does that mitigate their patient’s symptoms, but can also hinder looking at the simple problems as well.
Here are just some ways that doctors oversee the health complexities of LGBTQ individuals:
1. Patient Confidentiality
Keeping patient information private is a standard protocol in healthcare. However, extra caution should be given to LGBTQ patients since some may not be comfortable disclosing their sexual identity to many people, save for a few healthcare workers handling their case. They’re also more prone to facing discrimination so confidentiality should with regards to discussing their issues and handling their files should be strictly practiced.
2. Screenings and Examinations
LGBTQ individuals often experience judgment due to their sexual preference. When it comes to screenings, clinicians should be able to perform examinations based on biological sex even if it’s different from the gender that the patient presented.
3. LGBTQ Awareness
Doctors should not automatically assume that a patient is male or female. For example, when greeting a patient, clinicians can ask how the patient would like to be addressed. This shows that the clinic practices openness to LGBTQ communities, and makes patients feel more comfortable from the onset.
Part of receiving quality healthcare is being able to communicate honestly and openly with your doctor. For patients who may have grown up in an environment where being gay could get them bullied or beaten up, opening yourself up to strangers can be hard. Doctors should maintain a climate where patients of all genders feel comfortable to be themselves. This openness allows the patients to disclose issues and receive the right care.
For example, did you know that older lesbians are at higher risk for arthritis, stroke, and back pain compared to straight seniors? So sometimes, recommending a pillow to reduce back pain may not be enough. Clinicians have to look at the person’s health holistically in order to understand why they’re experiencing such symptoms.
5. Hormones and Surgeries
Certain LGBTQ individuals may be taking hormones or may have undergone gender-related surgeries. Doctors should be taking this into consideration when diagnosing a patient. Inventory of the patient’s body parts and the dosage of medicines they are taking should also be noted. Doctors may also need to ask preventative care questions like when their last breast or pelvic exam was. This allows them to provide the patient with referrals to clinics that are just as open and receptive as they are. Exams can be a sensitive issue for LGBTQ persons since they fear they might get discriminated against or asked unnecessary questions.
6. Social and Mental Health Issues
LGBTQ are often at higher risk for certain social and mental health issues. For example, many LGBTQ adults do not have health insurance. And many homeless young people are LGBTQ.
The LGBTQ community also has higher rates for substance abuse, smoking, HIV infection, hepatitis B, depression, and suicide. Most of these issues are due to the stress caused by discrimination. Gay men are at higher risk for sexually transmitted disease while lesbian and bisexual females are likely to be overweight or obese.
There are instances where LGBTQ members are refused treatment by certain doctors and hospitals. Some clinics are not as harsh but they often do not have the competence to treat certain LGBTQ health issues. There’s also institutional obstacles that prevent them from practicing basic healthcare rights such as visiting their partner at the hospital or accessing their medical records.
Why Should LGBTQ Health Be Addressed?
LGBTQ individuals have the basic human right to receive the proper health care. By addressing the unique and complex health issues they face, we are able to reduce the spread of disease, enhance mental and physical health, reduce health care costs, and improve life expectancy.
We should be open to hearing stories of LGBTQ persons who experience a gap in the healthcare services they receive.