Five questions to consider when leveraging technology to address health disparities in the LGBTQ population

Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) Pride month is officially upon us, and with it comes a celebration of diversity as well as a growing awareness of health-related issues affecting the LGBTQ community, such as:

The good news is that several current health equity initiatives underscore the importance of including the interests of LGBTQ individuals. For example, the Healthcare Equality Index evaluates healthcare facilities’ policies and practices related to the equity and inclusion of their LGBTQ patients, visitors, and employees. Healthy People 2030 supports improving the health and well-being of LGBTQ populations through health behavior objectives, objectives to address systemic problems, and objectives to increase data collection on LGBTQ health and well-being. The Joint Commission also continues to advance LGBTQ rights in healthcare organizations.

The role of technology: Health equity by design

Healthcare technology plays an increasingly important role in promoting health equity for LGBTQ individuals. Telehealth, for example, often provides greater access to care for those who may be unable to access safe and affirming care locally. A multitude of other healthcare technologies, such as digital health apps, remote patient monitoring devices, electronic health records, and more can also potentially help address healthcare disparities for this population.

In April, the Office of the National Coordinator (ONC) published an invitation for public input and call to action to promote health equity by design for health information technology. The idea is that developers would include health equity throughout the entire digital healthcare lifecycle, including at the onset and as a key feature during the design, build, and implementation of health IT policies, programs, projects, and workflows.

What might this mean for LGBTQ individuals in particular? Per the ONC, it might include taking a closer look at whether data elements capturing sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI) should be included in artificial intelligence-driven predictive algorithms and whether inclusion or omission of SOG data elements impacts health equity. Or it might mean creating data standards for SOGI data to enable more consistent data collection and greater interoperability, both of which can help better identify, measure, and address health inequities in traditional health and human services settings.

Health equity questions to consider

As healthcare providers evaluate health information technology solutions, health equity for LGBTQ individuals should be front and center. Depending on the specific type of technology under evaluation, healthcare leaders may want to consider asking one or more of the following questions:

  1. Does the technology enable the capture of SOGI data? If so, how is that data used?
  2. Does the technology provide extended services and specialized support for LGBTQ individuals?
  3. How does the technology evolve to keep up with the LGBTQ community and its ever-changing needs (e.g., new identities, new symbols, new research, and new standards of care)?
  4. How does the vendor market the technology to reach a diverse patient population and avoid stereotypes?
  5. Who developed the technology? Was there adequate representation from the LGBTQ community and other diverse perspectives?

Looking ahead

To reduce healthcare disparities, today’s healthcare leaders must be mindful of whether and how technology vendors incorporate health equity principles into product design and services. This is important for LGBTQ patients as well as additional diverse populations. Making an informed decision can help address disparities, improves outcomes, and reduce costs. Learn how Panda Health can help.