For the last 15 years, the Human Rights Campaign Foundation (HRC Foundation) has conducted the Healthcare Equality Index (HEI), a national benchmarking tool used to evaluate health care facilities' policies and practices related to the equity and inclusion of their LGBTQ+ patients, visitors and employees. The 2022 edition of the biennial report shows considerable progress among participating institutions in advancing LGBTQ+ inclusion:
- A record 906 health care facilities—including 37 pediatric hospitals—participated in the survey; this figure represents an 18% increase over the 2020 report.
- More than half of the participating institutions garnered the HRC Foundation's highest ranking for LGBTQ+ awareness and equity practices.
- An HRC Foundation analysis of more than 1,300 non-participating hospitals shows about 70% have implemented policies ensuring non-discrimination protections for LGBTQ+ patients and employees.
For those gathering the data—especially given that participating hospitals were responding amid a global pandemic—these numbers provide hope for a more inclusive future in health care. "Every person deserves to have access to quality health care, be respected and heard by their doctor and feel safe in the facility where they are receiving care," says Tari Hanneman, director of health and aging at the HRC Foundation. "Our HEI active participants are truly pioneering the health care industry by implementing robust, comprehensive LGBTQ+ inclusive policies that hopefully, because of their work, will become standard practice."
A guide for children's hospitals
Beyond measuring the health care system's progress toward LGBTQ+ equity, the HEI provides institutions with recommendations to enhance their policies, along with resources to help them get there.
While most of the HEI-recommended policies and practices can be applied to all health care facilities, children's hospitals have unique experiences and issues surrounding LGBTQ+ inclusion. To better understand these issues, the HRC Foundation convened a focus group of leaders from 11 children's hospitals who regularly participate in the HEI.
The focus group members shared policy and best practice documents and discussed their experiences, successes and challenges pertaining to the HEI. The result: LGBTQ+ Inclusion in Children's Hospitals: Lessons Learned from the Healthcare Equality Index.
The guide is geared specifically toward helping children's hospitals foster LGBTQ+ inclusion for employees, patients and families, focusing on the four foundational principles of the HRC:
- Non-discrimination and staff training. Ensuring LGBTQ+ inclusion in written policies around non-discrimination, including visitation policies.
- Patient services and support. Meeting the needs of LGBTQ+ patients, including self-identification and medical decision making.
- Employee benefits and policies. Focusing on equality in employee benefits for LGBTQ+ workers, as well as establishing supportive policies for employees around transitioning in the workplace.
- Patient and community engagement. Recommendations include collecting LGBTQ+ status on patient care surveys to better understand the needs of patients and their families and greater levels of involvement in LGBTQ+ concerns within the community.