How to Make Medical Exams More Inclusive
It is undeniable that LGBTQ+-related socio political discussions have come a long way in the past decade. So, as diversity and representation got its deserved attention under the spotlight of entertainment and business, medicine has tried to follow suit. However, it seems to be rarely discussed that there’s still a gap regarding equality in health care.
Unless you’ve experienced this yourself, you might not be aware of the multiple issues people go through when getting a simple medical exam. What should be a routine procedure can become an uncomfortable and, at times, humiliating experience. Problems related to inclusivity can threaten the health of part of the 9 million Americans who are LGBTQ+. Taboos, lack of understanding, and outdated methods are just some of the things that have delayed further advancements in medical exams.
Thankfully, the inclusion of LGBTQ+ and female professionals in companies and universities has been a major factor for bringing on much needed change. Yona Care, a group of designers at Frog Design, has questioned a method many find unpleasant, and are working on an inclusive solution for it. They are redesigning the vaginal speculum, a crucial tool for looking into gynecological health. The company has made sure to highlight how this new design was made without focusing on cisgender women, but having trans, non-binary, and other queer people in mind as well.
Besides avoiding terms like “women” or “she” and prioritizing gender-neutral terms, their model is being engineered into a vagina-friendly prototype – all types of vaginas. Their research involved looking into the effects of hormone therapy, which can result in vaginal atrophy and dryness. While some of these issues also afflict pre and postmenopausal women, their mechanism would not just benefit them.
But inclusion in medical exams should start even before they get through the doctor’s office’s door, not just during the actual exams. Most registration forms are rarely revised, and the initial awkwardness (to say the least) can be enough to put a damper on the experience. Feeling like your identity and/or sexuality is not considered relevant enough to be included in a form can make it difficult for them to feel open to an exam, or as comfortable as anyone can be when taking one.
More often than not, health professionals in general will make mistakes and assumptions purely based on biased information and/or lack of knowledge on LGBTQ+-related subjects. The root of many medical issues is that many people don’t understand the need to educate themselves on subjects that specifically address and detail the reality of LGBTQ+ patients. This may not only generate a discomfort and distrust of the patient towards a professional, but it might result in health issues being overlooked by them. By knowing this, a doctor might apply preventive care and services that can make a difference in the long run.
For while LGBTQ+ should be treated like any other patient, their needs and their health risks will differ from that of cisgender, straight people. In fact, different LGBTQ+ groups have different aspects and factors that data proves that a doctor will need to consider. This is why, in order to be inclusive and provide effective health care to their LGBTQ+ patients, professionals need to properly informed. Research and courses, as well as multiple studies with a focus on LGBTQ+ needs and issues are available for anyone to take.
This inclusion cannot be restricted to welcoming LGBTQ+ patients, either – otherwise, it is only superficial. The only way to make sure procedures and treatment is truly inclusive is to have a diverse team as well. Employing an LGBTQ+ staff is a way to ensure inclusiveness and to have others learn from them on a daily basis about the challenges LGBTQ+ patients might face.
There has been much improvement in medical exams, but there is still a long way to go toward gender identity and sexual equality. The conversation needs to keep on going in order for the medical field to keep on growing. The ongrowing number of studies and research has only been made possible by LGBTQ+ needs-aware professionals, and each one can make a difference not just in the lives of their own patients, but in the lives of many.