Public Release: 

How do patients, clinicians feel about collecting sexual orientation data?

The JAMA Network Journals

Patients are more willing to disclose their sexual orientation in the emergency department than many health care professionals thought, according to a new article published by JAMA Internal Medicine

Adil H. Haider, M.D., M.P.H., of Harvard Medical School and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, Boston, and coauthors conducted interviews and a national online survey to understand both the willingness of patients to disclose this information and the willingness of health care professionals to collect it in an effort to identify the best approach to collect sexual orientation data in emergency departments. Routine collection of data on sexual orientation is rare in emergency departments.

The study included qualitative interviews of 53 patients and 26 health care professionals in the Baltimore and Washington, D.C., areas, followed by a national online survey of 1,516 potential patients (244 lesbian, 289 gay, 179 bisexual and 804 straight) and 429 emergency department physicians and nurses. The average age of patients in the study was 49 and the average age of clinicians was 51.

Interviews suggested patients were less likely to refuse to provide their sexual orientation than providers thought. While about 10 percent of patients reported they would refuse to provide sexual orientation information, nearly 78 percent of all clinicians thought patients would refuse to provide this information, according to the survey.

Both patients and clinicians indicated a nonverbal self-report was their preferred method for collecting sexual orientation information, according to the results.

"One of the most striking results of this study is the contradictory views of willingness to provide sexual orientation information between patients and clinicians. Given that federal regulations are moving toward requiring hospitals to collect sexual orientation data, identifying the preferred way to obtain this information among both patients and clinicians is crucial," the article concludes.

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(JAMA Intern Med. Published online April 24, 2017. doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2017.0906; available pre-embargo at the For The Media website.)

Editor's Note: The article contains conflict of interest and funding/support disclosures. Please see the article for additional information, including other authors, author contributions and affiliations, financial disclosures, funding and support, etc.

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