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This Org is Improving How LGBTQ+ People are Treated in Health Care


OptumHealth's new educational program is working hard to remove bias toward LGBTQ+ people in health care settings. 

Many people seeking treatment or care will place doctors, nurses, and pharmacists on a pedestal, imagining them as universally knowledgeable and trustworthy. The truth is that physicians and others in the health care industry are simply human and subject to not just mistakes but also intolerance and judgment.

Many LGBTQ+ people have experienced that firsthand, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Experiencing ignorant health care professionals is disturbing enough, but studies show 8 percent of LGB patients have been denied care because of their sexual orientation and nearly 27 percent of trans individuals have been turned away at doctors’ offices because of their gender identity.

Acknowledging this quiet epidemic, the Department of Health and Human Services announced a ban on anti-LGBTQ+ discrimination in health care, including among insurance companies and care providers. Though it’s a positive step, there is still a need to more proactively attack prejudice in health care.

A new accredited and free education program hopes to be part of the solution. OptumHealth Education, which provides continuing education courses for health care workers, partnered with OutCare Health for the learning series. A webcast, titled “Caring for theLGBTQ+ Community: An Introduction” and led by two leaders in the LGBTQ+ health sphere, explores the negative effects that implicit stigma can have on the mental and physical well-being of LGBTQ+ patients, explains the importance of correct pronouns and terminology to ensure respectful communication, and covers the health problems common among queer people, like HIV and cancer.

“LGBTQ+ people face a number of unique challenges and barriers when it comes to their health and well-being. Many of these barriers are rooted in discrimination, stigma, and a simple lack of awareness and knowledge,” Dr. Amy Nguyen Howell, Optum senior national medical director, Office for Provider Advancement, said in a statement. “We launched this educational series as part of our commitment to advancing health equity and improving the health care experience for everyone we serve.” 

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Neal Broverman