Nav: Home

Survey of Sexual Medicine Society members reveals only half ask for patients' sexual orientation

July 31, 2018

Johns Hopkins Medicine researchers say their small survey of nearly 100 health care practitioners who are members of the Sexual Medicine Society of North America revealed that only half routinely ask their patients directly about their sexual orientation. In addition, the survey found, of those who do not ask, more than 40 percent say that sexual orientation is irrelevant to patients' care, a position contrary to longstanding clinical evidence.

A report of the findings, published in the July issue of The Journal of Sexual Medicine, suggests more professional and patient education is needed to successfully address the LGBT community's often distinctive health care needs.

"There's apparently a great lack of awareness even among those with a special interest in sexual medicine of the many health considerations a provider must take into consideration when patients are members of the LGBT community," says Amin Herati, M.D., assistant professor of urology at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and the study's senior author. "For example, men who mostly have sex with men are at much higher risk of some sexually transmitted infections, and if providers don't ask, patients may not provide important medical information pertinent to their lifestyle," Herati adds, noting that gender disparities between men and women in clinical care have appropriately received attention in recent years, and "the next wave of disparities is among LGBT sexual minorities."

Previous studies, Herati says, show that men who have sex with men (or MSMs) have worse health outcomes overall and are at a greater risk for a range of medical and psychological conditions. Evidence also shows that patients experience improved mental health when they disclose their sexual orientation.

With existing estimates indicating that fewer than 20 percent of clinicians provide medical information pertinent to LGBT patients, Herati and the research team set out to better understand how frequently health care providers ask patients about sexual orientation and their rationale for asking or not asking.

To do this, they mailed an 18-question survey to 696 members of the Sexual Medicine Society of North America between August 2016 and November of that year. The questions asked for participants' age, gender, sexual orientation, degree/qualifications, practice setting, etc.; how they assessed (if they did) patients' sexual orientation; and how, if at all, they tailored care to address specific needs of MSM patients.

Of the 92 Sexual Medicine Society members who completed the survey, 93.3 percent reported treating MSM patients, but only 51.7 percent said they routinely asked about sexual orientation. Of those that do not ask, 41.9 percent reported believing that sexual orientation is irrelevant to their patients' care and 25.6 percent said patients would disclose this information if they thought it was important.

Those who did ask about sexual orientation were more likely to practice in urban areas (36 members who asked practiced in urban areas versus 26 who did not ask and lived in urban areas), were more likely to inquire about a greater number of sexual behaviors (34 who inquired about sexual orientation used a sexual health questionnaire asking about number of partners, types of intercourse and use of protection versus 24 who did not ask about sexual orientation but used a questionnaire), were more likely to tailor their care to LGBT needs (17 who asked about sexual orientation offered staff training on communication toward the LGBT community versus 11 who did not ask about sexual orientation but provided training; 10 who asked about sexual orientation provided visual cues in waiting or exam rooms that signal LGBT health risks versus three that provided visual cues but did not ask about sexual orientation; and were more likely to endorse the idea that homosexual/bisexual patients have unique sexual dysfunction concerns.

The investigators say that open communication with health care professionals may relieve stress and anxiety for patients, as well as assure better clinical care.

Herati says a program to be implemented in the Johns Hopkins Health System later this year is an example of an effort to foster more open communication. It offers patients a sociodemographic ID card to voluntarily fill out, and which includes sexual orientation information. The card is designed to be shown or given to physicians and other health care providers during medical visits.

"We hope that will take away some of the inertia or awkwardness among providers and help provide a segue into discussing their sometimes special health needs," says Herati.
-end-
Other authors on this paper include Michael Saheb Kashaf of the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Peter Butler of the University of Texas Southwestern Medical School, and Billy Cordon-Galiang of Columbia University Medical Center/Mount Sinai Medical Center.

Johns Hopkins Medicine

Related Health Care Providers Articles:

Majority of US states and territories do not require day care providers to inform parents of firearms
Home- and center-based child care providers are not required by most states or U.S. territories to inform parents when guns are stored on the premises, according to a new study from researchers at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.
Many women and health care providers assume CBD safe during pregnancy despite lack of research
While most women of childbearing age understand drinking alcohol while pregnant is harmful, they may be less skeptical about the safety of cannabidiol (CBD), even though there is no evidence to support that belief, suggests a study being presented at the ANESTHESIOLOGY® 2019 annual meeting.
Study finds public support for health care providers talking about gun safety
Most Californians, including most gun owners, agree that gun safety conversations between health care providers and patients are appropriate when there is a gun in the home and risk of injury is elevated.
Pregnant women of color experience disempowerment by health care providers
A new study finds that women of color perceive their interactions with doctors, nurses and midwives as being misleading, with information being 'packaged' in such a way as to disempower them by limiting maternity healthcare choices for themselves and their children.
Adults with HIV who have compassionate care providers start and remain in treatment longer
Rutgers researchers find patients who perceive their primary care providers as lacking empathy and not willing to include them in decision making are at risk for abandoning treatment or not seeking treatment at all.
How to improve care for patients with disabilities? We need more providers like them
When it comes to patients with disabilities, the chance of getting a clinician 'like them' is extremely low, which may lead to patients' reluctance to seek care or follow prescribed interventions and treatments.
Study: Health care providers split on who should prescribe HIV prevention drug
UB researchers interviewed a small sample of PrEP-prescribing providers in New York State to conduct a qualitative analysis of their perspectives on the preventive medication.
International study reveals disconnect between perceptions of health care providers and people with obesity worldwide
The disconnect between perceptions of health care providers (HCPs) and people with obesity (PwO) is revealed in a new international study (the ACTION-IO study) presented at this year's European Congress on Obesity (ECO 2019) in Glasgow, UK, and published in the journal Diabetes, Obesity and Metabolism.
Introducing gun safety into health care providers' checklists to prevent teen suicide
Mental health services researchers at UMass Amherst and elsewhere assessed the needs of stakeholders who would implement a new approach to promoting a program, the Firearm Safety Check.
Non-VA healthcare providers are uncertain how to care for veterans
A study published in Family Practice indicates that healthcare providers outside of the Veterans Affairs Department are uncertain how to address veterans' needs.
More Health Care Providers News and Health Care Providers Current Events

Trending Science News

Current Coronavirus (COVID-19) News

Top Science Podcasts

We have hand picked the top science podcasts of 2020.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Listen Again: Reinvention
Change is hard, but it's also an opportunity to discover and reimagine what you thought you knew. From our economy, to music, to even ourselves–this hour TED speakers explore the power of reinvention. Guests include OK Go lead singer Damian Kulash Jr., former college gymnastics coach Valorie Kondos Field, Stockton Mayor Michael Tubbs, and entrepreneur Nick Hanauer.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#562 Superbug to Bedside
By now we're all good and scared about antibiotic resistance, one of the many things coming to get us all. But there's good news, sort of. News antibiotics are coming out! How do they get tested? What does that kind of a trial look like and how does it happen? Host Bethany Brookeshire talks with Matt McCarthy, author of "Superbugs: The Race to Stop an Epidemic", about the ins and outs of testing a new antibiotic in the hospital.
Now Playing: Radiolab

Dispatch 6: Strange Times
Covid has disrupted the most basic routines of our days and nights. But in the middle of a conversation about how to fight the virus, we find a place impervious to the stalled plans and frenetic demands of the outside world. It's a very different kind of front line, where urgent work means moving slow, and time is marked out in tiny pre-planned steps. Then, on a walk through the woods, we consider how the tempo of our lives affects our minds and discover how the beats of biology shape our bodies. This episode was produced with help from Molly Webster and Tracie Hunte. Support Radiolab today at Radiolab.org/donate.