Post submitted by Jason Brown, McCleary Law Fellow

In a landmark step to address health care disparities affecting LGBT people, last week U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has included sexual orientation and gender identity data collection to its requirements for Electronic Health Records (EHRs) certified under the Meaningful Use program.  The change is planned to take effect in 2018 after health care providers have received training on how to collect sexual orientation and gender identity data.

The new requirement is part of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services’ Meaningful Use program, which provides incentives to health care providers for making the switch from paper to electronic health records.  Certified EHRs allow health care providers to securely record electronic patient records that can be accessed by other health care providers who also participate in the program.

The LGBT community faces significant health disparities, including disproportionate rates of suicide attempts among LGBT youth, higher rates of tobacco, alcohol and drug usage, and increased rates of depression and anxiety.  The Meaningful Use program will allow health care providers to better serve the individual needs of LGBT clients, as well as aid the health care community in monitoring these disparities at the community level.

In June, the Human Rights Campaign convened with the Fenway Institute, the Center for American Progress, and other leading experts to ensure that sexual orientation and gender identity data collection in healthcare settings would become a reality. Leaders recognized the importance of training key staff on the collection of sexual orientation and gender identity data, educating members of LGBT community on privacy and confidentiality protections, and securing non-discrimination protections throughout the health care system.

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