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Research: Orientation, Gender Data in EHR Would Improve LGBT Outcomes

August 14, 2013
by Gabriel Perna
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According to a new research, recording the sexual orientation and gender identity of individuals in an electronic health record (EHR) would help identify the health disparities of LGBT individuals, ultimately leading to improved quality of their care.

The Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) and the Office of the National Coordinator of Health Information Technology (ONC) rejected including sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI) questions in meaningful use guidelines for EHRs in 2012 but are considering this issue again in 2013. If it did, Sean Cahill, Ph.D., from the Boston-based Fenway Institute and one of the paper’s researchers, says it would dramatically increase our understanding of LGBT health disparities and our ability to address them.

The research paper discussed the challenges of collecting SOGI data. Commentators, they said, questioned the clinical significance of collecting and recording SOGI data in the demographic section of EHR, saying it would provide no additional clinical benefit. They also portrayed data collection and reporting as a burden.

The CMS cited a “lack of consensus for the definition of the concept of gender identity and/or sexual orientation as well as for a standard measure of the concept and where it would be most appropriate to store the data within the EHR, we will await further development of a consensus for the goal and standard of measurement for gender identity and/or sexual orientation.”

“If our government doesn't include SOGI data collection in meaningful use guidelines, we will miss a golden opportunity to systematically gather essential data on LGBT health. It will also be very difficult to make progress toward the Healthy People 2020 goal of eliminating LGBT health disparities,” the authors argue.

The University of California, Davis Health System recently announced it will become the first academic health system in the country to incorporate sexual orientation and gender identity as standard demographic elements within the electronic health records (EHRs) for its patients.

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