Intake forms should ask about patients’ sexual orientation and gender identity, LGBTQ+ advocates say

SOGI data helps providers give holistic patient care.
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When a patient walks into a doctor’s office for the first time, they’re typically asked to fill out a patient intake form that asks questions like what surgeries they’ve had in the past, what medications they’re on, and details of their family medical history.

Missing from many intake forms are detailed questions about a patient’s sexual orientation and gender identity, known as SOGI data. Yet SOGI data is important in providing comprehensive patient care, Elizabeth Moore, director of health services research and evaluation at HealthHIV, who also works as a nurse practitioner, told Healthcare Brew. HealthHIV is a national nonprofit that advocates for equitable healthcare for LGBTQ+ patients, and provides education and training to healthcare organizations.

SOGI data includes whether a patient identifies as straight, gay, lesbian, bisexual, or other; what sex they were assigned at birth; and what gender they identify with.

SOGI data “can help us address health disparities and improve outcomes for people,” Moore said. “Also importantly, it just acknowledges and affirms LGBTQ people. It’s part of asking who you are, and that’s a really important part of healthcare.”

There are sometimes concerns from LGBTQ patients on how their SOGI data could be used, Scott Bertani, director of public policy at HealthHIV, said. So it’s important providers know exactly what the data they’re collecting is used for and to communicate that clearly to the patients.

“We want to understand how that data is being used so that the community can also feel comfortable,” Bertani said.

Moore said that as a provider, she wants to know everything related to a patient’s gender identity, expression, and sexuality, “because that really helps form comprehensive care.”

But there’s no agreed-upon standard for what SOGI metrics healthcare practices should collect, Moore said, and each practice decides on its own which intake questions to ask patients.

One way to increase the collection and utilization of SOGI data in healthcare is to incorporate education on the importance of SOGI data into medical school or other provider training programs, Moore said.

But it goes beyond just providers. The front desk staff who are the first point of contact at a clinic should be trained on how to use inclusive language, and the environment of the waiting room should be reflective of different gender identities, she added.

“The way that so many people have been taught to provide care and the questions they ask are so heteronormative, especially around sexual practices and sexual behavior,” Moore said. “You can’t provide competent care to people…unless you are asking the right questions, you don’t get the right answers. If you don’t have the right answers, you can’t provide the right care.”

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