(Photo by Michelle Chu)
Some 50 percent of lesbian, gay or bisexual people have experienced some type of discrimination or barrier when seeking medical care.
That number jumps to 70 percent for transgender and gender non-conforming patients, according to a 2009 study.
Discrimination might take several forms, including accusatory or blaming language from medical professionals about patients’ conditions, but all of them mean fewer members of the LGBTQ community feel safe when accessing care — or it might mean they’re refused care altogether.
Spouses Catherine Hofmann and Nic Anthony have set out to change those numbers by launching QSPACES, a free, just-released digital platform to help LGBTQ folks find empathetic, high-quality healthcare professionals, including chiropractors, psychologists, nurse practitioners, etc.
Health professionals on the site are given an LGBTQ competency score by users — “like a Yelp for the LGBTQ community and doctors,” Hofmann said.
What earns someone a high competency score? “It starts when you first walk into a waiting room” — things like having a place on intake forms for patients’ preferred pronouns or name, not asking patients probing questions about their personal lives that don’t relate to their medical care and generally treating patients with respect, regardless of their sexual orientation.
Hofmann said she hopes QSPACES will eventually be able to offer training on LGBTQ health issues for low-scoring practitioners.
To seed the site before launch, the QSPACES team pulled from a publicly available list of local doctors. Soon, there will be an option for users to add a practitioner, but for now, practitioners interested in being included should contact QSPACES directly.
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Dev firm Webjunto has been working on the site since August 2016. It’s development has been funded by a few different sources: $10,000 from Jefferson University, some pro bono work from Webjunto in exchange for the company’s branding on the site, some of Hofmann and Anthony’s own money.
And yes, you could call it a passion project.
“We have plans to monetize it, but our main focus has been launching it and making sure it’s working and that it’s a great resource for the community,” Hofmann said. “People outside the LGBTQ community are having a hard time understanding this is a problem, so we’re hoping traffic to the website will be proof.”
There are also plans to expand beyond Philadelphia; after all, not every region is as welcoming for the LGBTQ community. Some people Hofmann and Anthony spoke to when developing the project “had really heartbreaking stories of discrimination in healthcare settings or being refused service outright, and we [realized] this was a national problem,” Hofmann said.
Ultimately, they hope QSPACES can save its users a lot of time, money (it still costs to visit a doctor who treats you badly) and heartbreak — “all those feelings when you’re discriminated against in a setting when your trust is almost a must.”-30-
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