Brigham and Women’s Hospital Has Started Collecting Gender and Sexuality Information from Patients

The move is ahead of a new policy requiring health records to include that data by 2018.

Earlier this month, in a move to counteract some of the imbalances in the healthcare system, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services declared that electronic health records must soon include a way to collect information about a patient’s gender identity and sexual orientation.

The policy won’t go into full effect until 2018, but Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) has been including gender and sexuality information in patients’ medical records since May—a move that Kerstin Palm, co-chair of BWH’s LGBT Employee Resource Group says could equalize quality of and access to healthcare for all of the hospital’s patients, especially those with more unique needs.

“Collecting this information allows us to better understand LGBT health, including inequities in insurance coverage, access to care, diagnosis, and treatment,” Palm says, adding that LGBT individuals have been shown to have higher rates of everything from suicide to obesity and STDs. “One of the major factors complicating the understanding of LGBT health inequities is a lack of data on sexual orientation and gender identity.”

Harry Reyes Nieva, Palm’s co-chair, says BWH wanted to start collecting the information as soon as it started revamping its electronic health record, despite the fact that it isn’t required to do so until 2018. “The implementation of the new electronic health record provided an opportunity to demonstrate leadership and commitment to LGBT healthcare equality,” he says, adding that BWH has been singled-out for its commitment to LGBT health in the past.

Though the initiative is still in its early stages, Palm says collecting sexual orientation and gender information will help BWH’s doctors personalize care for each patient.

“By collecting this information from our patients, we can better describe the specific inequities that this community faces and also ensure that we are delivering personalized care for each patient,” she says. “By capturing gender identity and sexual orientation information, clinicians can ensure that appropriate preventive care and screenings are conducted.”