On March 28, the Human Rights Campaign Foundation’s 2022 Healthcare Equality Index (HEI) named MIT Medical an “LGBTQ+ Healthcare Equality Top Performer.” More than 900 U.S. facilities participated in the survey, which evaluates and scores healthcare organizations on policies and practices related to the equitable treatment and inclusion of their LGBTQ+ patients, visitors, and employees. The survey examines such criteria as staff training, employee benefits, community engagement, and services and support provided to LGBTQ+ patients. A minimum score of 80 out of 100 points is required to earn “Top Performer” designation. MIT Medical scored a 95.
Nurse Practitioner Colleen McDonald recalls hearing about the survey for the first time at a conference on transgender care she attended during the summer of 2017. She mentioned it to her colleagues upon her return and, she says, everyone was immediately enthusiastic. Completing the 2020 survey and meeting its requirements became a highlighted goal for MIT Medical in 2019, and a team was convened to begin work in earnest.
The effort included multiple staff education events, including a panel of transgender individuals whose stories proved so engaging that many staff members attended it twice. There were also attempts to encourage MIT Medical’s EMR (electronic medical record) vendor to make changes in its interface that would support certain aspects of LGBTQ+ care. “We had both gains and losses in that effort,” McDonald reports, “but it was not for lack of effort or commitment.”
MIT Medical scored 90 on its first survey in 2020, losing five points for perceived deficiencies in MIT’s insurance coverage. “We did have transgender-inclusive insurance at that time,” McDonald explains, “but we didn’t do a good job of explaining it. We got those points this time around.” Even so, she points to more recent improvements in insurance coverage, including the addition of coverage for hair removal processes in MIT’s student insurance product.
“We lost another five points in the category of ‘community engagement’ in 2020 and again this year,” McDonald notes. “We speak with many student groups and classes about LGBTQ health — maybe even more usual throughout the pandemic, thanks to Zoom — but we need to hold officially sponsored events that are open to the whole community. In light of all the recent oppressive legislation around the country, we are currently planning an event for the entire community to affirm LGBTQ+ identities.”
McDonald and Psychologist Jenny O’Brien are also working on plans for additional staff training. “We didn’t lose points in the ‘staff education’ section of the survey either time, but there is always have room for improvement. We want our next round of training to focus on using inclusive language at every point of care, even when the EMR makes this a challenge,” McDonald says.
“This survey is a really good framework for medical systems to build in inclusive care,” McDonald says enthusiastically. “I also like that our survey answers are read carefully and scrutinized fairly. The responses we get provide us with concrete steps we can take to become even more inclusive. For example, this year’s feedback has helped me understand how important it is for MIT Medical to officially sponsor an all-community event.”
“We want every member of our community to feel safe, respected, and heard by their care providers at MIT Medical,” says Medical Director Cecilia Stuopis. “This survey is an important part of ensuring that MIT Medical continues to provide our LGBTQ+ patients with the kind of quality care that all of our patients deserve.”
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