The Biden Administration recently issued an executive order advancing LGBTQ+ health equity.
Health IT experts contend that technology can advance health equity for the transgender patient population, as this group has traditionally been marginalized by the healthcare industry. In fact, evidence shows transgender people experience much higher rates of chronic health conditions compared with the general population – and discrimination and stigma impacts their physical and mental health.
To that end, athenahealth, a vendor of cloud-based enterprise software – including EHRs – for medical groups and health systems, and epocrates, an athenahealth company that serves essential clinical content to more than 1 million physicians, nurses, pharmacists and other healthcare professionals, are taking steps to empower clinicians and health systems to better serve transgender patients.
For example, athenahealth recently introduced a new capability to its EHR that allows providers to record and display important information in a patient’s chart, including pronouns, name used (plus legal name) and gender identity (plus gender assigned at birth). Further, epocrates recently introduced a new clinical guidance that gives clinicians access to the latest transgender care guidance at the point of care.
Allyson Livingstone is executive director of diversity and inclusion at athenahealth. Dr. Acey Albert is director of clinical content at epocrates.
Healthcare IT News interviewed them to learn from Livingstone EHR technology’s role in helping health systems create a more welcoming space for transgender patients and how this can ultimately improve health outcomes and from Albert insight into the challenges clinicians face due to the current gaps in transgender care guidance and the growing need for technology to help clinicians find accurate information as care guidance evolves.
Q. Why did athenahealth and epocrates take steps to record transgender information in EHRs and provide transgender care guidance?
Livingstone: The transgender and non-binary communities are vulnerable patient populations that have traditionally been marginalized by the healthcare system. As a result, they’re at a much higher risk for negative health outcomes – evidence shows transgender and non-binary patients experience much higher rates of chronic health conditions, mental illness, and sexual and physical violence compared with the general population.
This is our reality because the LGBTQ+ community often feels unwelcome and discriminated against within the healthcare system. Research from the Center for American Progress has found that 15% of LGBTQ Americans said they’ve avoided medical care due to discrimination and one in three transgender patients had to educate their doctors on trans health.
In response to these inequities, we saw a way to address many of these concerns and help patients feel seen and heard with a new EHR functionality. The technology records a transgender patient’s information (for example, gender assigned at birth, pronouns, preferred name and more) and displays this information to providers in an accurate and comprehensive manner throughout important steps in the healthcare journey.
While it may seem like a minor adjustment, the positive impact of the enhancement is far-reaching. By bringing these aspects of patient identities and experiences into the treatment space, we can ultimately create a more welcoming healthcare environment that eliminates feelings of fear or isolation and leads to better health outcomes for all.
Albert: At epocrates, we provide qualified expert guidance from trusted global and national medical societies and associations so that clinicians can provide high-quality and personalized care to all patients, including those in the non-binary and transgender communities.
“Far too often, transgender patients have to educate their own doctors on trans health, and it shouldn’t be this way.”
Dr. Acey Albert, epocrates