To Ask or Not To Ask? That is the Question When it Comes to a Patient’s Sexual Orientation

February 19, 2018 | Strategic Insights for Ambulatory Care


​Should all patients be asked about their sexual orientation? The question was debated by two U.K. healthcare experts in a January 17, 2018, article in The BMJ. The question should always be asked, argues the first doctor, because providers "already fail" the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transsexual (LGBT) community by either not recognizing or making wrong assumptions about their needs. Gay and bisexual men, the doctor says, are more likely to smoke, drink alcohol, and use drugs than men in general and are also more likely to have attempted suicide or self-harm. Meanwhile, only about a quarter of men who have sex with men are tested for HIV, the doctor says, and lesbian and bisexual women report receiving cervical smears at a lower rate than the female population as a whole. "Equal treatment is not fair treatment," the doctor argues; LGBT patients are a vulnerable population and thus providers should make a "special effort" to meet their needs.

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