Patient Care

Strong Earns 'Leader in LGBTQ Healthcare Equality' Designation

Mar. 30, 2017
Strong Memorial Hospital has been recognized as a 2017 national Leader in LGBTQ Healthcare Equality by the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) Foundation, the educational arm of the nation’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) civil rights organization. Nationwide, only 302 health care organizations earned “leader” status out of 596 who voluntarily took part in the survey. The HRC Foundation also proactively researched the key policies of 900 other non-participating hospitals.

This is the 10th year for the HRC Foundation’s national survey, which uses a benchmarking tool called the Health Care Equality Index to evaluate inclusive policies and practices related to LGBTQ patients, visitors and health care employees.

The results, released yesterday in timing with national LGBTQ Awareness Week March 27-31, showed Strong earning a perfect score of 100 on a survey that significantly raised the bar on what it takes to be designated as a “leader.”

Linda Chaudron, MD, MS

For the first time, in addition to the usual core criteria, participants were scored based on how many policies and best practices they have in place within four areas. These areas are: foundational elements of LGBTQ patient-centered care, LGBTQ patient services and support, employee benefits and policies, and LGBTQ patient and community engagement.

“The perfect score on the survey is a reflection of how far we’ve come as an organization since we first began taking part in the review in 2007, and how organic it is becoming for people across our hospital to think more inclusively,” said Linda H. Chaudron, MD, MS, URMC associate vice president and senior associate dean for Inclusion and Culture Development.

Chaudron says the Medical Center has engaged in important changes in policy, advocacy, and education during the last five years.

John Cullen, PhD

“There is still much work for us to do, but we’ve reached a velocity where departments are actually coming to our office with ideas of new policies and procedures that can be developed,” she said. “We continue to work across disciplines to eliminate disparities and ensure that all individuals receive the quality health care and respect they deserve.”

John P. Cullen, PhD, director of Diversity and Inclusion for URMC’s Clinical & Translational Science Institute and Assistant Director for the Susan B. Anthony Center, said the HRC “really moved the goalposts this year” to look more deeply at what each organization is doing above-and-beyond federal requirements.

“They were much more focused on the use of best practices,” he said. “And they placed a particular emphasis on our policies for transgender or gender non-conforming individuals who are among those facing the greatest hurdles right now to receiving equitable treatment within our nation’s health care system.”

In the HRC Survey, Strong was recognized—as in past years—for meeting core criteria such as having a patient non-discrimination policy that includes the terms “sexual orientation” and “gender identity,” providing equal visitation rights to LGBTQ patients and their visitors, having an employment non-discrimination policy that is fully LGBTQ inclusive, and providing approved training in LGBTQ patient-centered care for key staff members.

Beyond these steps, however, the hospital earned points for offering a Web page specifically for LGBTQ patients that details the policies and rights listed above, and provides information about health care proxies, medical records, related Web sites, and hospital contact information.

The surveyors also took note of a critical project now underway to create designated “all-gender” bathrooms across the hospital campus—something that continues to be uncommon in hospitals nationwide.

Within the last two years, the Medical Center’s Health Information Management team also initiated a project—now being piloted in three clinics—that enables health care providers to consensually capture a patient’s sexual orientation and gender identity within patients’ electronic medical records (EMRs). The initiative has proven to be especially helpful to health care teams in providing the most tailored and beneficial preventive and health maintenance care.

Another feather for the University of Rochester as a whole is that it offers one of the most inclusive health care benefits packages in the country to enrolled employees and their covered family members who are transgender or gender non-conforming individuals. Beginning January 1, 2015, the University became the 27th U.S. college or university to cover transition-related medical expenses (including surgeries, mental health, hormonal therapies) under employee health insurance.

The University’s Diversity Engagement Survey conducted in 2016, yielded a nearly 50% response from across the University, including the Medical Center. It enabled faculty, staff, trainees and students to self-identify their sexual orientation and gender identity anonymously, rate the inclusiveness of their work environment, and identify strengths and opportunities for change.

In terms of community engagement, The University’s Susan B. Anthony Center provides a well-known hub for connectivity, partnering with several local organizations and support groups and working across social media platforms to determine the perceptions, challenges and health care needs of LGBTQ individuals across Western New York.

Among other positives, the HRC survey noted the significant amount of LGBTQ health-related research being conducted by URMC researchers, and recognized the numerous educational efforts underway with employees across departments, particularly in the area of transgender or gender non-conforming patients.

Cullen adds that Rochester has almost twice the population of lesbian, gay and bi-sexual individuals as other cities across the U.S., making Strong employees twice as likely to encounter an LGB patient, family member or visitor.

“As the largest employer in the area, we have a responsibility to stay ahead of the curve in education, building awareness, and creating new ways to serve this population,” he said. “It is a source of pride that there is greater understanding across the organization, and that the unique needs of the LGBTQ population are more front-of-mind in everyday conversations.”

For more information about the Healthcare Equality Index 2017, or to download a free copy of the report,