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More hospitals using LGBT nondiscrimination policies, says study

A growing number of hospitals around the U.S. have adopted policies that ban discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) patients according to a report released Tuesday by the Human Rights Campaign Foundation.

Details of the Healthcare Equality Index (HEI), an annual survey done by the Human Rights Campaign Foundation (HRC), the nation’s largest LGBT civil rights organization, were discussed during a press conference at Howard University Hospital in Washington, D.C. The press conference with U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, HRC President Chad Griffin and Wayne Frederick, MD, Howard University provost and chief academic officer, was broadcast live on the Internet.

[See also: Patient experience a top priority for hospital executives]

This year, the HEI found a 40 percent increase in rated facilities – a total of 407 nationwide. In addition, 234 of those rated hospitals received a perfect score, said Griffin during the press conference.

“I commend the LGBT and healthcare communities for the progress made and I am proud to be part of an administration that has a historic record of accomplishment for the LGBT community,” said Sebelius at the press conference. “Our report shows we not only met our goals but went even further to improve LGBT access to care and coverage.”

The HEI, which is in its fifth year, is “designed to allow U.S. healthcare facilities to assess the degree to which they provide LGBT patient-centered care, to identify and remedy any gaps and to make public their commitment to LGBT patients and their families,” according to the report. It is free for hospitals to participate in the HEI.

The survey is comprised of four core criteria for LGBT patient-centered care, which includes a number of provisions within a participating hospital's nondiscrimination policies for sexual orientation and gender identity and visitation rights for same-sex couples.

The HEI found that over 95 percent of the 407 rated facilities included sexual orientation in their nondiscrimination policies. In addition, almost 80 percent of the hospitals included gender identity in their policies and more than 65 percent of inpatient hospitals included policies granting equal visitation rights to same-sex couples and same-sex parents.

In addition, the criteria included a new training requirement. This new requirement called on facilities to enroll at least five high-level managers in designated work areas for a minimum of 60 minutes of expert training in specific LGBT health concerns.

Out of the survey respondents, 67 percent provided employee training in LGBT patient-centered care, and 84 percent of those respondents achieved credit through training provided by the Human Rights Campaign Foundation.

Brigham and Women’s Hospital, one of the 407 participating hospitals this year in the HEI, wanted its policies to be inclusive for both its patients and employees, said Tina Gelsomino, administrative director for the Center for Faculty Development and Diversity at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston in an interview with Healthcare Finance News before the press conference. “I think for us here there’s always been a commitment to supporting the highest quality care in a way that is supportive to everyone," she said.

It has been “extremely gratifying” to participate in the HEI, Gelsomino said, and she believes many patients are attracted toward institutions “that seem open and affirming.”

“Many people want to go to a hospital that is open in terms of embracing diversity,” she said. “People know which hospitals they are going to feel safe in and word gets around quickly.”

Griffin said while significant progress has been made, the Human Rights Campaign Foundation wants to continue to expand its reach in the country.

“There are currently 18 states not represented in the HEI. This must change and the Human Rights Campaign is committed to doing just that,” he said. 

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