The Human Rights Campaign (HRC) Foundation, the educational arm of the largest national lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer civil rights organization, recently recognized Strong Memorial Hospital (SMH) and UR Medicine affiliates Highland and Thompson Hospitals as 2019 national LGBTQ Healthcare Equality Leaders.
Nationwide, 406 health care facilities earned the coveted “leader” status out of 680 that voluntarily took part in the HRC’s survey. Participants were scored based on four criteria: non-discrimination and staff training, patient services and support, employee benefits and policies, and patient and community engagement. The HRC also proactively researched key policies at an additional 1,000 non-participating hospitals.
SMH’s perfect score on the survey underscores our commitment to being the local health system of choice for all patients and visitors—and the ideal place to work for employees.
“As a hospital, we continue to do better in terms of serving and accommodating our diverse community of patients, as evidenced by our positive feedback on the survey,” said Steve Goldstein, president and chief executive officer of Strong Memorial Hospital. “Results show that our efforts continue to align with national best practices and guidelines, ensuring that we’re truly providing medicine of the highest order for patients, and a safe and respectful environment for all of our faculty and staff.”
The “leader” status is also a reminder that cultivating an inclusive environment isn’t a one-and-done job. “This recognition underscores our efforts to foster a diverse and inclusive environment and culture, but it also reminds us that the work doesn’t stop here,” said Linda Chaudron, M.D., vice president and senior associate dean for Inclusion and Culture.
“There’s still more work to do to ensure we’re staying ahead of the curve, but it’s exciting to know we’re headed in the right direction,” said John Cullen, Ph.D., director of Diversity and Inclusion for the Clinical and Translational Science Institute and associate director of the Susan B. Anthony Center.
Leading the Way
On par with 2018 results, HRC surveyors once again recognized SMH’s patient and employment non-discrimination policies, which include the terms “sexual orientation” and “gender identity.” The hospital’s web page dedicated to LGBT policies, resources and helpful information also earned a nod from surveyors.
As in previous years, SMH’s electronic health record, eRecord, has been used as an example of best practice for collecting patient information, such as gender identity, pronouns and sexual orientation. Thanks to a recent eRecord upgrade, patients’ preferred names are front and center on their patient charts. Patients can also update their own preferred name in MyChart, which will carry over to eRecord.
The hospital was also recognized for its continued training in LGBTQ patient-centered care—both at the hospital and offsite locations. This training aligns with the SMH’s ongoing efforts to meet the needs of LGBTQ patients through prevention, screening wellness and testing services, including those available through SMH’s AIDS Center Adult Clinic and Golisano Children’s Hospital’s Adolescent Gender Health Services.
SMH also earned credit for its 30 all-gender bathrooms that are accessible to all faculty, staff, students and visitors. The Medical Center began designating all-gender restrooms in 2016, which included new hallway signage with “All-Gender Restroom” wording that replaced traditional signage. “Imagine having to plan your day around where and when you can feel safe using a restroom. That’s the reality for many transgender and gender non-conforming people, which is why it’s so important that we have gender-inclusive facilities within our Medical Center,” said Cullen.
Latest Efforts Underway
Additional initiatives are in the works that that support the hospital’s ongoing efforts. Our Clinical Cultural Competency Committee is continuing its work in identifying diversity and inclusion challenges and areas for improvement in clinical areas across the hospital and ambulatory clinics. The committee includes members from the hospital’s Quality, Legal, Compliance, Patient -and Family-Centered Care, and Inclusion and Culture offices.
“This is truly a whole-house effort,” said Chaudron. “It’s important that members from across our hospital have a seat at the table to determine how we can best address patient care issues and concerns, and keep overall patient satisfaction top of mind.”
Along with the committee, the Patient Experience Office, in collaboration with SMH’s Transgender and Gender Diverse Clinical Advisory Committee (THRIVE), is working to launch a Transgender Patient and Family Advisory Council that welcomes transgender and gender diverse patients and their family members to provide feedback, guidance and recommendations to enhance the patient and family experience at SMH.
“Launching this council gives us another opportunity to hear directly from our transgender and gender diverse community about their current experiences and the improvements that are truly needed,” said Jackie Beckerman, chief patient experience officer and senior director of ICARE Commitment. “The goal is that the council will help us continue to put all patients at the center of the care and experience we deliver.”
The ICARE Steering Committee is also working to make available new badge cards that reflect faculty, staff and student pronouns. “This was a direct result from employee feedback,” said Beckerman. “Everyone deserves to have the pronouns they use respected in the workplace. We hope that providing these badges to interested faculty, staff and students will help us continue to foster the inclusive environment we strive for at our Medical Center.”
To learn more about the Healthcare Equality Index, visit http://www.hrc.org/hei.