This policy brief from the Fenway Institute explains why patient demographic data collected in the clinical setting should include questions about sexual orientation and gender identity. Gathering sexual orientation and gender identity data from patients is essential to providing appropriate health care to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people, who face significant documented health disparities. It also helps us to better understand these disparities. However, limited data indicate that most providers do not ask questions about sexual orientation, either during initial medical history or during annual exams. Gathering LGBT data in electronic health records (EHR) is consistent with key recommendations in Healthy People 2020, the 2011 Institute of Medicine report on LGBT health issues and research gaps, and the federal government’s implementation of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, which expands access to health care to most Americans and enhances protections against discrimination in health coverage.
If LGBT patients are told why it is important to gather such information, and that such information will be kept private and confidential, most will be forthcoming with this information. Provider knowledge about their patients’ sexual orientation and gender identity can facilitate optimal care.