Now from HRC, the Healthcare Equality Index
Posted by pozlife on October 27, 2007
published Monday, October 1, 2007
The inaugural Healthcare Equality Index, a new annual report that assesses hospitals nationwide on a range of criteria relevant to LGBT patients and consumers, was released Monday by the Human Rights Campaign Foundation and the Gay and Lesbian Medical Association.
In the tradition of HRC’s influential Corporate Equality Index, which evaluates U.S. companies’ gay-friendly policies and practices, the Healthcare Equality Index is the first comprehensive look at how the medical industry responds to the needs of the LGBT community.
Results from the 2007 index are posted online at the organizations’ Web sites, http://www.hrc.org/documents/HEI_Report_Oct_1_2007.pdf and GLMA.org.
“The Healthcare Equality Index sets a standard that didn’t exist before,” Ellen Kahn, director of HRC’s Family Project, which oversaw the index, told The Advocate.
Starting last year, surveys were mailed to 1,000 hospitals across the country that were granted one-time-only anonymity to respond. It was a way for the hospitals to become acclimated to the idea of the index before individual results were made public.
“We felt it was simply respectful and fair to allow the industry to understand the issues, to try to pull together some key policies that they can start thinking about, and to be ready to get the best possible rating” the next time, said Joel Ginsberg, executive director of the Gay and Lesbian Medical Association.
Out of that 1,000, 78 hospitals responded from 20 states and the District of Columbia, providing a wealth of information in five primary areas: patient non-discrimination; visitation; decision-making; cultural competency training for staff; and employment policies.
Ginsberg calls the initial results a “mixed bag.”
Of the 78 hospitals, 50 have written policies affirming that same-sex partners have the same access to their partners as married spouses and next of kin, and 56 allow patients to designate their domestic partners or someone else as a medical decision maker for them.
Only 45 of the hospitals have a written policy that allows same-sex parents the same rights as opposite-sex parents for medical decision-making for their minor children.
On cultural competency, 57 hospitals provide training to personnel that specifically addresses the unique issues facing LGBT patients and their families.
HRC and the medical association acknowledge that these numbers are not enough to represent what the entire medical community is doing, but they do identify some early trends that have never before been documented.
Ennis Shells, director of patient and concierge services at Advocate Illinois Masonic Medical Center, a hospital that responded to the survey, believes the index will influence both patients and providers.
“With so much competition, hospitals have to market themselves as well as they can,” Shells said. Advocate Illinois has satellite offices in 19 different communities and serves “a very diverse community,” he said.
Responding to the survey only brought attention to what the hospital was already doing right, like allowing same-sex partners the same access as that provided a married heterosexual couple.
“We’re a very diverse hospital and we’re proud of our diversity,” Shells said.
“It sets the bar for what different kinds of health care institutions should be doing with respect to the GLBT community and it creates a system of transparency and accountability, particularly for institutions making an effort to create better practices.”
“In my mind, equality in health care is one of the pillars of our movement for full equality and civil rights,” Ginsberg said.
“There are so many areas where we have to do a lot of work, but health care has emerged as an important issue for all people. Health care has risen to the top of the agenda for Americans.”
Results will be included with the 2008 HEI survey, being mailed out to the 1,000 largest hospitals in the country, along with the 78 hospitals that responded to this inaugural edition. Both HRC and GLMA expect a much bigger response for this next round.
“A lot can change in a year,” said Kahn. “Now people know that this is happening and there has been some buzz among hospital administrators. This is a new thing for hospitals to do. We’re hopeful, going forward, that we’re going to have a higher level of participation.”
At that point, the health care index will start to resemble the Corporate Equality Index and its rankings of participants on numerous criteria. Eventually, that information will become the basis of an online resource for patients and consumers to use when searching for hospitals that can meet their particular health care needs.
“Change in health care is slow,” Ginsberg said. “It takes years to really understand the scope of the problem and then to come up with solutions. We’re not going to simply settle. We want the whole enchilada.” (William Henderson, The Advocate)