UPMC remains committed to providing an inclusive, welcoming environment in which members of the LGBTQIA+ community can seek care. The new LGBTQIA+ Affirming Designation in our online provider directory is the next step in that effort.
The LGBTQIA+ Affirming Designation allows LGBTQIA+ people to search for, find, and book appointments with doctors who are affirming of their health care needs.
“The best way for UPMC to be a place that LGBTQ people can trust is by continuing to behave in ways that make us trustworthy,” says Joy Gero, PsyD, director, Population Health and Improvement, and program manager, LGBTQIA+ Health Quality, UPMC.
“I am incredibly proud about this step in our journey at UPMC,” Dr. Gero adds.
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What Is the LGBTQIA+ Affirming Provider Designation?
The LGBTQIA+ Affirming Provider Designation is a new, voluntary addition to a UPMC provider’s online profile. It shows they are affirming of LGBTQIA+ patients’ unique health care needs. To earn the designation, they must complete three training modules and five attestations.
The idea of an LGBTQIA+ affirming provider is a step above an LGBTQIA+ accepting provider, Dr. Gero says.
“Someone who’s accepting essentially just means they’re not going to actively discriminate against LGBTQ people,” she says.
“People who are affirming, for us, means two things. One is that you have some understanding of the concerns important to the community. (The second is) you have a shared language so that you know how to talk to and about the community during the appointment and later in clinical documentation.”
The LGBTQIA+ Affirming Provider Designation came out of more than two years of internal planning and development.
Leaders from UPMC and UPMC Health Plan conducted focus groups with LGBTQIA+ community members. There, they learned that LGBTQIA+ people often had trouble finding health care providers who were affirming of their needs.
UPMC and UPMC Health Plan representatives then partnered with the Fenway Institute to make sure their plan aligned with the latest research. The Fenway Institute has dedicated itself to the health care needs of sexual and gender minorities.
The UPMC and UPMC Health Plan leaders also tested their training modules with LGBTQIA+ people and with a group of UPMC providers.
“We really wanted to make sure that the content was up to date and relevant to the LGBTQIA+ community and providers,” Dr. Gero says.
The designation officially went live in the summer of 2022.
How UPMC Providers Earn the LGBTQIA+ Affirming Designation
To earn the LGBTQIA+ Affirming Designation, UPMC providers must complete three training modules and five attestations.
Dr. Gero says UPMC’s LGBTQIA+ Affirming Provider Designation is the first of its kind because providers must complete these steps to earn the designation. Other health care and community organizations host similar LGBTQIA+ provider lists but don’t connect them to training, she says.
“We believe it is important to have a designation that’s connected to training and attestation,” she says. The health plan’s LGBTQIA+ Affirming Provider Designation is the first to link a designation to content and not simply an opt-in list.”
The training modules include:
- LGBTQIA+ Patient and Colleague Awareness Training. “We think of it as the LGBTQ 101,” Dr. Gero says.
- Care for Transgender, Gender Diverse, and Intersex Patients. Dr. Gero says caring for these individuals is “sometimes completely new to providers, especially if they were trained decades ago.”
- Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Affirming Documentation and Systems. “It’s both about how you have a conversation with people, as well as how you document about those people,” Dr. Gero says.
The five attestations include:
- Adhering to the most recent version of the World Professional Association for Transgender Health Standards of Care.
- Agreeing to display the LGBTQIA+ Affirming Provider Designation with their provider details in UPMC Health Plan’s directory.
- Being an LGBTQIA+ Affirming Provider champion.
- Being confident in communicating with patients about health needs relating to sexual orientation and gender identity.
- Understanding the content presented in all three learning modules.
The training modules and attestations could change in the future to reflect changes in the LGBTQIA+ community, Dr. Gero says. If that happens, providers who already have the LGBTQIA+ Affirming Designation would complete any new training modules or attestations.
Why UPMC’s LGBTQIA+ Affirming Provider Designation Is Important
The LGBTQIA+ Affirming Provider Designation is one step UPMC is taking to provide equitable health care to the LGBTQIA+ community.
Like other underserved populations, LGBTQIA+ people face health care disparities. Studies show LGBTQIA+ people report higher rates of discrimination in health care settings than their straight, cisgender peers.
They may also struggle to find providers who are affirming of their health care needs. Because of these factors, they may delay or avoid seeking health care.
The UPMC LGBTQIA+ Affirming Provider Designation aims to help LGBTQIA+ people find providers at UPMC who don’t just accept them but understand their needs. That means they can stay their true selves with providers, Dr. Gero says. It also means that the providers will include an LGBTQIA+ person’s family of choice in their care.
“What we always have to think about is even if an individual LGBTQ person has never felt discrimination in their health care experiences, there is historical trauma the community has endured at the hands of health care professionals,” Dr. Gero says. “We have to do more so that populations who have been marginalized feel comfortable when they’re seeking care.”
The designation is voluntary. That means providers are taking extra steps to show their willingness to provide affirming care, including completing the training and attestations.
Though the LGBTQIA+ Affirming Provider Designation is an important step to providing inclusive care, it’s not the last. UPMC and UPMC Health Plan are working to expand the designation to more care providers across the network. And we’re making an ongoing effort to provide a welcoming environment for LGBTQIA+ people starting at the front door.
“We have to recognize that there are still steps on this journey that we need to take,” Dr. Gero says.
“And I think this is a really big win for us. It’s something that would not have happened without a considerable outlay of resources from the health plan. We are really proud of and heartened by how many people have been a part of the process.”
For more on the resources available for LGBTQIA+ patients and caregivers at UPMC, visit our website.
Editor's Note: This article was originally published on , and was last reviewed on .
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