There’s an app (or a guide) for that

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Marianne spent last night in the emergency room. She’s fine, just had a bad reaction to some medicine she was taking for the pain of some other procedure she had had done a week or so ago.

I learned three things from this experience:

One, doctors don’t listen to what women want to do with their own bodies. Marianne told her female care doc three weeks ago what she wanted, the doctor didn’t listen and instead gave Marianne the newest wonder cure. That “wonder cure” landed Marianne in the hospital with cramps, vomiting, nausea and dehydration. Awesome…no!

Two, drugs are bad. All of them. And doctors can’t really tell you how anything works, they just kind of dope you up and hope whatever they give you has the good side effect they (and presumably you) want. The ED doc told Marianne last night that the drug she had been taking for the pain has also caused bad reactions in a number of other people. Sweet. (Insert eyeroll here).

Three, it matters where you get sick when you are an LGBT person. Last night, Marianne was seen promptly and after about an hour of sitting in the waiting room when I asked how she was doing I was allowed back to see and hang out with her for the rest of the evening. Our experience last night was great  but that isn’t always the case. Depending on hospital policies regarding non-family members (which is what most gay and lesbian couples are considered) or the personal feelings of the staff, GLBT couples may not be afforded the same visitation as other couples (married or not).

Fortunately, the Human Rights Campaign creates something each year called the Healthcare Equality Index. According to the HRC,

The annual Healthcare Equality Index surveys and rates respondents on their policies and practices related to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) patients and families. It also serves as a unique benchmarking tool for identifying emerging best practices in LGBT patient-centered care.

Each health care facility is ranked on the following criteria:

  • 1a Patients’ Bill of Rights and/or non-discrimination policy includes “sexual orientation”
  • 1b Patients’ Bill of Rights and/or non-discrimination policy includes “gender identity or expression” or “gender identity”
  • 2a Explicitly inclusive visitation policy grants same-sex couples equal visitation access as different-sex couples and next of kin
  • 2b Explicitly inclusive visitation policy grants same-sex parents equal visitation access as different-sex parents for their minor children
  • 3 Provide cultural competency training addressing healthcare issues relevant to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community
  • 4a Equal employment opportunity policy includes “sexual orientation”
  • 4b Equal employment opportunity policy includes “gender identity or expression” or “gender identity.”

Unfortunately, both large health systems in my area don’t rank very highly

Moses Cone Health System, based in Greensboro, includes “sexual orientation” in their equal employment policy but does nothing for the patients.

Novant Health Inc., based in Winston-Salem and the one we went to last night, includes “sexual orientation” in the Patient’s Bill of Rights as well as includes “sexual orientation” in its equal employment policy.

Sometimes you don’t have a choice as to where you go whether it’s because you’re in a strange city or because you need help now but if you do have a choice it’s nice to know there’s a app (or a guide) for that.

To view the guide as a PDF, go here: Healthcare Equality Index 2011. The rankings by name start on 36, by state on page 45 and by network on 54.

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