The Penn Medicine Program for LGBT Health - Strengthening Penn’s commitment to providing excellent care to the LGBT community

By Eve J. Higginbotham, SM, MD

Barriers such as decreased access to healthcare, lack of awareness and/or insensitivity to their unique health needs, and inequitable health system policies and practices put some members of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) community at a disadvantage in optimizing their physical and mental health. The Penn Medicine Program for LGBT Health works to address these health inequities and improve the care of all LGBT people.

Recently the Program worked with the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, Pennsylvania Hospital, Penn Presbyterian Medical Center, and Chester County Hospital to complete the Human Rights Campaign Healthcare Equality Index (HEI). As part of the application, the four hospitals standardized their patient and employee non-discrimination policies to include sexual orientation and gender identity or expression and provided LGBT patient care training for over 60 senior managers in organization leadership, nursing management, patient relations, admitting, and human resources management. As a result, the Human Rights Campaign designated all four hospitals as “Leaders in LGBT Healthcare Equality."

Beyond earning the HEI status as leader in LGBT healthcare equality, the Penn Medicine Program for LGBT Health has implemented significant initiatives to improve the care and wellbeing of the LGBT community.  We developed a patient services handbook that includes LGBT health information and a list of Penn providers with expertise in LGBT health. We have provided LGBT health education and trainings (via lectures, invited talks, panel discussions, and distribution of resources) at Penn's School of Nursing Science, School of Dental Medicine, Perelman School of Medicine, and throughout our affiliated health systems.

LGBT health research has been an integral component of the Program, as we aim to improve the delivery of quality care and reduce health disparities in these populations.  The Program has published several papers on LGBT healthcare, including Documentation of sexual partner gender is low in electronic health records: Observations, predictors, and recommendations to improve population health management in primary careauthored by Dr. Giang Nguyen and Dr. Baligh Yehia

The study found that out of 170,570 adult primary care patients seen in 2012, 45% had the gender of sexual partners recorded in the medical record, 4.3% of whom had same-gender partners (3.5% of females, 5.6% of males). Sexual partner gender documentation is currently low, yet important to identify patients for targeted prevention and support.

Penn Medicine has always provided care for a large number of LGBT individuals. Due to unwavering support from Penn leaders, partnership building, collaboration, and community engagement, the Penn Medicine Program for LGBT Health has helped strengthen Penn’s commitment to providing excellent care to the LGBT community

Article By Dr. Baligh Yehia