Few US physicians display LGBT-competency, study finds

Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people are more likely than heterosexuals to avoid or delay medical care due to the fear of stigma and homophobia. This fear and the potential consequences of putting off medical care underscore the necessity for physicians to be LGBT-competent.

However, a new study by UCLA found only 9 percent of U.S. academic medical practices have procedures for connecting patients to LGBT-competent physicians, and only 4 percent had policies for identifying those physicians. Only 15 percent had lists of LGBT-competent physicians.

According to the study, single LGBT individuals between 18 and 44 are less likely than heterosexual individuals to have health insurance, and even partnered gays and lesbians are twice as likely to be uninsured than heterosexuals. Many are apprehensive or fearful of disclosing their sexual or gender identity to their physicians, which can also have an impact on the quality of care they receive, the study found.

  • In 2012, UCLA researchers invited all 138 academic faculty practices accredited by the Liaison Committee on Medical Education in the U.S. to participate in the survey by phone or email. Four key findings from the survey are highlighted below.
  • 16 percent of medical centers have comprehensive LGBT training, 32 percent have some training and 52 percent have none.
  • 32 percent of responding CMOs, medical school deans and other representatives were aware of an online provider database published by the Gay and Lesbian Medical Association, but just 7 percent indicated people at the responding facilities were encouraged to use it.
  • 80 percent of participants were interested in developing and implementing policies and programs to better support LGBT patient needs.

The medical centers' geographic regions, public or private status or whether they were located in a state with an LGBT health center did not make significant differences in their competence in LGBT health issues.

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