Members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and/or questioning (LGBTQ+) community feel comparatively less knowledgeable about preventive care than the general population and are less likely to recognize its importance in managing their overall health, according to a January 2022 Phreesia and Klick survey of more than 500 LGBTQ+ patients conducted as they checked in for their doctors’ appointments.
And while LGBTQ+ patients are more likely than other patients to say they intend to seek preventive care for conditions often associated with their community, such as HIV, survey results suggest that they are far less likely to seek preventive care for conditions such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol or cancer.
The risks associated with missed preventive care can be significant. It’s critical that healthcare organizations make sure they have the right digital tools in place to help address the two biggest obstacles that prevent many LGBTQ+ patients from keeping up with their preventive care—poor health education and access.
Here are three digital strategies that can help provider groups address those obstacles and get more of their LGBTQ+ patients back in their office for preventive care.
1. Educate patients through targeted outreach messaging
According to the January survey, only two-thirds of respondents said they had a strong understanding of preventive care, primarily because their physicians didn’t communicate its importance or tell them what kinds of preventive care to seek, compared to the general population. For example, just 45% of LGBTQ+ patients said they received preventive-health reminder messages from their doctor’s office, versus 64% of the overall population, survey data shows.
The right digital outreach tools can help practices connect with LGBTQ+ patients before, after and between their visits without requiring much staff effort or time. In addition, digital tools allow providers to customize their messaging and target specific patients so the content they receive is relevant and personally impactful.
Indeed, digital outreach has become indispensable to the CARE Center at Dignity Health – St. Mary Medical Center in Long Beach, Calif. Recognized as an “LGBTQ+ Healthcare Equality Top Performer” in the Human Rights Campaign Foundation’s 2022 Healthcare Equality Index, the CARE Center uses customized, targeted outreach to remind patients about their upcoming pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) injections, a time-sensitive medication that prevents HIV infection.
Timely delivery of PrEP reminder messages is imperative, says the CARE Center’s Executive Director, Paul Lovely, making outreach technology invaluable for quickly reaching patients. It works: Within six months of implementing digital outreach, more than 90% of the CARE Center’s targeted patients had come in for their PrEP injections.
“Making sure our patients keep up with their medications is a crucial piece to treating HIV and preventing its spread,” Lovely says. “Retention is important to any practice, but it’s very important for our patients—even though they are traditionally hard to retain—to come in and maintain their care.”
Targeted outreach also is critical in a crisis. When monkeypox cases started to rise, the Los Angeles LGBT Center immediately began sending important, targeted information about the virus and vaccine availability to its broader patient population.
“We’re able to send emails to thousands of patients with a click of a button and ensure they’re getting the right information,” explains Gabriel Garcia-Lopez, the group’s Health Information Systems Director, said. “We can embed links and have our center’s branding, so our patients know who the email is coming from. It builds confidence with patients.”
As the healthcare industry continues to face staffing challenges, the ability to educate patients at scale with minimal staff effort, especially during health crises, will remain vital for reducing gaps in care and improving disease awareness.
[Tip: For greater effectiveness and patient convenience, consider including a link within outreach messages that allows patients to directly self-schedule preventive care appointments.]
2. Provide a better intake process to improve convenience and the overall care experience for LGBTQ+ patients
Providing a high-quality, tech-enabled healthcare experience can make it easier for healthcare organizations to bring patients—including those in the LGBTQ+ community—back into their offices for missed preventive care appointments.
Insights from a recent joint report from Phreesia and KLAS Research found that patients overwhelmingly want their healthcare providers to offer online appointment check-in, as well as digital tools that can increase their access to care. How can organizations address those growing preferences? It starts with improving the intake process.
- Let patients self-manage intake: Allow patients to complete their appointment intake forms on their own devices. Using a device that’s familiar to them will make the process more convenient—and more private.
- Give patients the ability to complete intake before they arrive: For even greater convenience, allow patients to pre-register before their appointment. Patients can complete their intake forms, sign consents and verify their insurance information prior to their visit, helping to minimize waiting-room congestion and maximize practice efficiency.
- Customize intake questions: A customizable intake process ensures that LGBTQ+ patients are asked the right questions at the right time to better prepare their physician for their visit.
To bring more PrEP patients back to the CARE Center at Dignity Health, its staff implemented a digital platform that made intake faster and more convenient. That move saved significant time in the waiting room, encouraged more patient-focused care and created an improved experience that made it easier for patients to keep up with their visits.
“We’re able to push our intake process out ahead of time to our patients,” Lovely says. “The visit can be more about patients getting care, rather than making sure their paperwork is correct. It’s helped speed things up for everyone involved.”
3. Implement digital screening tools to identify and address clinical care gaps
One-quarter of surveyed LGBTQ+ patients said they felt “not at all confident” that they knew what preventive screenings they might currently need. And an even higher percentage (42%) felt “not at all confident” that they knew what cancer screenings they should schedule. Without a full understanding of the regular care they should seek, LGBTQ+ patients are at greater risk for preventable health conditions.
Providers can determine their LGBTQ+ patients’ care preventive-care status by digitally administering patient-reported outcomes (PROs) and other clinical screening tools that indicate what types of preventive care a patient currently needs and where gaps in care exist.
Care teams armed with these screening results can formulate a care plan that addresses each patient’s specific needs and prompts more productive patient-provider discussions. Digital screening tools also help providers understand each patient’s activation level—the knowledge, skills and confidence they possess to self-manage their care—which, in turn, gives them insights into the types of care and services that would best support that individual.
As another benefit, if LGBTQ+ patients complete screenings prior to their visit during self-service intake, they will have more time to accurately provide or update their demographic information. Pre-visit screening also saves staff time and ensures that they have the most current and complete information about the patient when they arrive for their appointment.
With digital outreach, registration and screening tools in place, healthcare organizations are better positioned to fully engage with their LGBTQ+ patients, educate them about the importance of preventive care and provide a high-quality experience that keeps them coming back for their routine—but vital—healthcare visits.
To learn more about how Phreesia’s digital tools can improve patient engagement and drive better preventive-care continuity, visit phreesia.com.