Historically, the LGBTQ+ community has been left out of much of traditional healthcare. Many members of these groups have faced and continue to face extreme prejudice, which in turn can lead to high rates of conditions such as depression, substance abuse, and self-harm. Unfortunately, social stigmas against this community has prevented many members from seeking treatment for fear of being ostracized. In some cases, especially those concerning transgender patients, many doctors are not even sufficiently knowledgeable to offer proper medical advice.
Thankfully, more and more people are becoming aware of this problem and looking for ways to address it. As part of its Healthy People 2020 initiative, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has finally addressed the issue of LGBTQ+ health directly. While this program has plenty of objectives that can apply to people of any sexual orientation (such as reducing binge drinking, adolescent bullying, and childhood obesity), it also contains new goals that cater directly to LGBTQ+ people. These include increasing the number of population-based data systems that keep track of LGBTQ+ information, as well as adding more gender and sexual orientation options on Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance Systems.
While this is certainly a beneficial step in modernizing healthcare, there is still much work to be done before LGBTQ+ patients receive the exact same standard of healthcare as heterosexual patients. As more data continues to be collected over time, providers and front desk staff can undergo better sensitivity training so that they make sure not to alienate (inadvertently or otherwise) any of their patient base.
In the meantime, this initiative will hopefully mark the beginning of more attempts by the healthcare industry to reach out to those of non-traditional genders and sexual orientation. As a result, it is likely that more of these patients will present on a regular basis, meaning that coders and billers everywhere should be keep up with the proper ways to document members of this group.