97% of patients comfortable with sexual orientation questions, Mayo Clinic study finds

Up to 97 percent of patients are comfortable with questions from their healthcare provider on their sexual orientation and gender identity. These questions significantly reduce disparities among LGBTI patients, according to a study conducted by researchers at Rochester, Minn.-based Mayo Clinic and published in Health Services Research.

Despite a number of government reports encourage providers to ask these questions, there was little evidence about whether patients accept these questions, according to the researchers.

"Our results should help ease the concerns of providers who want to deliver the highest-quality care for their patients but may not ask sexual orientation or gender identity questions for fear of distressing or offending their patients," said Joan Griffin, PhD, co-author and health services researcher at Mayo Clinic.

Sexual and gender minorities face an increased risk for alcohol and tobacco use and psychological distress. These patients are also less likely to seek medical care, according to the CDC. To tackle these health inequities, physicians and healthcare first must identify these patients.

Previous research indicates a number of healthcare providers assumed sexual orientation and gender identity questions would offend patients. "In previous studies, there was more concern from healthcare providers about using the questions, but nobody had asked patients about their thoughts," Dr. Griffin said.  

"Therefore, we were not sure what to expect from patients, but we were not surprised that patients were less concerned about the questions than the providers in other studies thought they would be."

Mayo Clinic patients will receive these questions as the system switches to a single, integrated EHR and billing system. The questions include what patients' assigned birth sex was, what their current gender identity is and their preferred gender pronoun. Patients will have the option to respond, "choose not to answer" to all the questions. Mayo Clinic's integrated EHR system is scheduled to launch at Mayo Clinic's Rochester campus in May, and at Mayo Clinic's Arizona and Florida campuses in October.

Editor's note: This article ran in the May 15 issue of the CEO E-Weekly under a misleading subject line. The current headline is correct. Becker's regrets the error.

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