Advantages in disclosing to your health care provider
Are you out with your doctor? A recent study released last year noted that members of the LGBTQ community get treated better if their health care providers know– and recognize– their sexual identity.
More importantly, health care providers and primary care physicians should be the ones to provide an open environment in the first place so that their LGBTQ patients can reciprocate.
Ensuring a more inclusive health care provider
In the study, researchers of the University of Toronto talked with members of the LGBTQ community in Toronto, Canada about their experiences with doctors to see how they felt about heteronormative assumptions affecting the way they communicate with their doctors.
In one-on-one interviews that were recorded and transcribed, the researchers talked to participants aged 18 years and older and found out that the disclosure of their sexual identity to their doctors was as hard to do as coming out to others. However, if they already have a good relationship, it was slightly easier.
What’s more, if the doctors acknowledge their own personal heteronormative value system, they can establish a strong relationship with their LGBTQ patients.
Having a conversation with your health care provider
However, health care providers also need to make themselves more inclusive from day one.
“Patients should be looking for providers that reach out to them,” says Dr. Jesse Joad, president of GLMA: Health Professionals Advancing LGBT Equality. “That make it clear that LGBT people are welcome in their practice and will be treated respectfully.”
“There’s the way they have intake when their patients arrive– the kind of questions that are asked, and the kindness and thoughtfulness with which they’re asked. That’s how it should go, so that it’s just natural for the patient to come out to their doctor, their health care provider,” Dr. Joad added.
On the other hand, Dr. Harvey Makadon, director of education and training programs at The Fenway Institute said, “It’s important for clinicians to create an environment and ask appropriate questions that allow people to feel comfortable discussing these issues, which they may not have discussed with anyone ever before.”
Needs that should be addressed by your health care provider
Depending on whether you’re gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender, health care providers need to be aware of the specific needs of their LGBTQ patients.
Breast cancer risk is higher for lesbians, Dr. Joad said: “Lesbians who don’t have a very good relationship with their provider just don’t get the kind of screenings, like Pap smears and mammograms, that others do, because they just don’t go.”
Dr. Joad offers advice to those patients who are ready to come out to their health care provider, reiterating that it’s their doctor’s job to understand and help them: “Be proud of who you are, and be matter-of-fact. And have that sort of confident demeanor you should have, knowing and expecting you will be treated well and your concerns will be addressed.”