5 Ways Telehealth Supports LGBTQ+ Health CareCaitlin ClementJune 02, 20225 minute read
For decades, the LGBTQ+ community has been subject to discriminatory care and treatment due to stigma and lack of provider awareness. Their unique experiences mean they’re more likely to struggle with mental illness, substance abuse and are at a higher risk for STIs. Access to individualized care with culturally competent providers can no longer be the exception.
The telehealth boom has made getting that quality of care easier for the LGBTQ+ community. For those with limited access, it’s opening up doors to care that had been closed before. Here are five ways telehealth is empowering LGBTQ+ health.
1. Tackling LGBTQ+ health disparities
A health disparity is a preventable difference in the burden of disease, injury, violence, or opportunities to reach your best health experienced by socially disadvantaged populations. As a result, the LGBTQ+ community, especially youth, tend to be at higher risk for certain diseases and mental disorders.
For those LGBTQ+ patients living in more rural areas and requiring unique care, telehealth increases their access to the medical resources they need. Removing the barrier allows patients to seek better healthcare from anywhere instead of being forced to see the closest provider. However, lack of access isn’t always the issue.
Due to negative community narratives, many LGBTQ+ individuals tend to distrust healthcare professionals and choose not to seek care because of it. This means underlying medical concerns may go undiagnosed or are too late to treat once they are. Telehealth provides a confidential and safe space for these individuals to seek the care they need in the comfort of their own homes. Mitigating the amount of discriminatory practice they may encounter.
2. Culturally competent providers
Having access to culturally competent care and providers is extremely important for those in the LGBTQ+ community. Not only does it encourage better communication, but it creates a safer environment for the patient.
GLMA, the Gay and Lesbian Medical Association, provides a directory on their website of health care practitioners who have pledged their commitment to LGBTQ+ health. This is an amazing resource for those looking for more inclusive medical professionals. However, some states only have a handful of these providers. Leaving individuals who live hours away or without the right health coverage struggling to find care. Some may even choose to no longer seek it.
Telehealth breaks these barriers. With virtual care, LGBTQ+ patients have access to a much larger pool of inclusive and competent providers without having to leave their homes. The provider doesn’t even have to be located in the same state (though they do need to be licensed in that state) in order to see a patient. This ease of access encourages the community to seek more care and ultimately challenge the health disparities found in the population.
LGBTQ+ patients and their providers also have a wider access to payer coverage through telehealth provider networks. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic the federal government, state medicaid programs, and private insurers expanded their coverage for virtual care services. Thus, making it easier for people to receive care and decrease provider burnout while adhering to social distancing. This definitely lit the proverbial fire that led to the telehealth boom.
However, what virtual care services are covered can differ state by state, so be sure to do your research.
3. Encourages preventative care
Having access to and being a more culturally competent provider encourages more preventative care within the LGBTQ+ community. That includes testing for cervical cancer, HIV/AIDS, heart diseases, and other high-risk illnesses. Due to the negative associations individuals in the LGBTQ+ community have towards medicine, they don’t seek out these preventative tests and screenings. This is part of the problem. It’s important that medical professionals make it a priority in their practice to provide inclusive care and advertise that to their patients.
Telehealth creates a point-of-care that allows the patient to stay in the comfort and safety of their own home while still seeking out care. It levels the playing field in a sense. The patient doesn’t have to go into an environment that makes them uncomfortable and the provider has the flexibility to take their services to the patient.
4. Mental & behavioral health services
According to the National Alliance on Mental Health (NAMI), LGB adults are twice as likely as heterosexual adults to experience a mental health condition. In addition, Transgender individuals are four times as likely as cisgender individuals. To take it further, LGBTQI youth are at an even greater risk of sucide and depression. Transgender youth even more so.
Discrimmination and stigma play a huge role in these statistics and there’s no doubt that societally, there’s still a lot left to do. However, telepsychiatry is creating a space where mental health providers can work towards overcoming LGBTQ mental health disparities.
In fact, mental and behavioral healthcare has been thriving in the digital health space. It’s helped the industry combat provider shortages and give quality care during the highest demand the practice has ever seen. This is good news for the LGBTQ+ community. Virtual care has expanded their access to much needed and perhaps life-saving mental health services that they otherwise may not have had.
5. Specialized care
For many LGBTQ+ individuals, they may require more specialized care due to their unique situations. The lack of knowledge and informed care by some providers is another reason why telehealth has been so important. It opens up access to specialty providers who understand or have experience in treating patients in the community.
For example, transgender or gender-nonconforming individuals may decide to undergo hormone therapy (HRT & TRT) as a part of their journey. Certain follow-ups and reviewing lab results can be done via telehealth as well as having access to a physician if any questions or concerns arise. This added flexibility makes a smoother treatment transition more likely for those individuals going through the therapy.
This rings true for other gender affirming treatments as well. Telehealth used in addition to in-person visits offers the patient more independent freedom over their care without losing the benefits of consistent follow-ups.
Powering the future of LGBTQ+ care
The health disparities that this community faces are significant and continuing to prioritize LGBTQ-affirming care in all medical fields is important to tackling those. As more states allow reimbursements for virtual care services, telehealth will continue to open up more opportunities for competent LGBTQ+ care.
As we discuss the future of inclusive care, we’d like to introduce OpenLoop! Our company provides intuitive technology customized for your business and your patients. We partner with hospitals, clinics, and hormone companies across the country to match patients with our vast network of multi-state, DEA licensed clinicians to deliver the best in virtual endocrinology. OpenLoop also provides access to a nationwide network of experienced and culturally competent licensed clinicians focused on giving quality care anywhere.
Interested in what we can do for your organization? Get in touch here!
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Jess Greiner Director, Marketing