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    Everything doctors need to know about patient sexual orientation, gender identity

     

    Donna Futterman, MD, a pediatrician and director, adolescent AIDS program for the Montefiore Health System, has long worked with LGBT youth and feels it’s the obligation of every doctor to treat and understand their patients as an individual and what specific health issues they may be facing.

     

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    “Questioning those identities puts you right in the path of several important medical issues that the provider needs to know,” she says. “We should care about who our patients are and what their issues are and understand the unique vulnerabilities facing the LGBT community.”

    Don’t Be Afraid To Ask

    For some patients, this information can be very sensitive, and physicians are sometimes wary about making anyone uncomfortable by broaching the subject. However, many believe a doctor shouldn’t be afraid.

    “I ask for a patient’s sexual orientation/gender identity just as I ask any other question, however, before I begin, I pre-emptively say that I ask this same question to every patient so no one feels profiled or discriminated against,” Mencias says. “If a patient feels uncomfortable or becomes anxious after I pose the question, or refuses to answer, I do not force the issue—I just move on.”

     

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    Asking about sexual orientation can be even more uncomfortable for the provider than for the patient.

    “Studies show patients do not mind being asked these questions and that they prefer to be asked,” Stulman says. While some doctors may be uncomfortable bringing the subject up, it’s necessary and he suggests using clear language to asking a transgender or LGBT patient about their sexual practices.

    Next: Establishing a safe connection

    Keith Loria
    Keith Loria is a contributing writer to Medical Economics.

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