A new report from the Institute of Medicine recommends the collection of data on sexual orientation and gender identity be part of the objectives for achieving meaningful use of electronic health records.

The report assesses unique health disparities that lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals experience and calls on the National Institutes of Health to implement a research agenda to advance knowledge about LGBT health. "Although a modest body of knowledge on LGBT health has been developed, these populations, stigmatized as sexual and gender minorities, have been the subject of relatively little health research," according to the report.

Two of seven recommendations to advance understanding of LGBT health involve the collection and management of data. The IOM also recommends that data on sexual orientation and gender identity be collected in federal funded surveys from the Department of HHS and other relevant federal surveys.

"Given the interactions between social and economic circumstances and health, data from social and economic surveys could provide valuable information on the context for health disparities experienced by LGBT people," according to the report. "Similarly, surveys on crime and victimization, housing and families would provide data on variables that relate to the health of sexual and gender minorities."

Further, collecting sexual orientation and gender identity data in EHRs could aid in identifying and addressing LGBT health disparities, report authors believe. "At present, possible discomfort on the part of health care workers with asking questions about sexual orientation and gender identity, a lack of knowledge by providers on how to elicit this information, and some hesitancy on the part of patients to disclose this information may be barriers to the collection of meaningful data on sexual orientation and gender identity."

Nonetheless, the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology should start planning for collection of such information in EHRs, according to the report. "Detailed patient-level data such as those found in electronic health records should provide a rich source of information about LGBT populations and subpopulations."

The report, "The Health of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender People: Building a Foundation for Better Understanding," is available for purchase here.

--Joseph Goedert

 

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