Yesterday LGBT Tech’s Executive Director, Christopher Wood spoke about the importance of Health IT for LGBT communities on Capitol Hill. Find a complete set of remarks below.
Thank you, Joel and Health IT Now for having me on the panel today.
Just a few moments ago, Joel mentioned the importance of innovative technology for individuals around healthcare. I just returned from South by Southwest and let me tell you, wearable technology and healthcare-related devices were all over the exhibit floor. I want to explain why it is so crucial for communities like the LGBT community.
As we outlined in our research released last year, A Vision for Inclusion: An LGBT Broadband Future, it is crucial for LGBT communities that we get Health Internet Technology right, and sooner than later.
We need to accomplish this by offering the healthcare industry and health technology developers clear light touch regulations that foster innovation and stress inner operability.
Let me expand on why it is different and unique for LGBT communities.
Up to this point, the Internet has offered the LGBT community a unique set of benefits including the ability to,
Search for health information,
Find access to competent healthcare providers,
Preventative health information, and
Develop Social connection with peers.
Overall, technology has allowed LGBT individuals to seek out health information without having to disclose their sexual orientation or gender identity. This is especially true for our LGBT youth. According to a 2013 GLSEN study, 81% of LGBT youth have searched for health information online as compared to just 46% of non-LGBT youth.
In fact, as we look at the LGBT community and healthcare providers overall, the Gay and Lesbian Medical Association (GLMA) found that a huge part of the LGBT community were turning to the Internet for health information as almost 45% of Gay and Lesbian individuals are not out to their providers.
How can we expect our providers to properly treat those part of the LGBT community if they are afraid to come out?
In fact, I don’t blame many of these LGBT individuals for their fear. In 13 states, I can get married tomorrow and be fired the very next day for being gay.
But today I want to focus on the opportunities in front of us. Policy makers have to make access to health technology that much better for our community and so many others. Before I continue, I think it is important for everyone in the room to understand that the LGBT community is not a monolith but rather comprised of nearly every other community be it race, religion, age, class or geographic location. Often times issues that individuals face are only compounded by identifying as Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual or Transgender.
The government has an opportunity to improve the health of this nation by empowering people to take better care of themselves and that will be made possible by offering the healthcare industry and health technology developers clear light touch regulations that foster innovation and stress inner operability. But also protect the privacy of the consumer. In short, let’s create regulation that allows the greatest investment by industry and safety for consumers.
Let me leave you with a couple of examples.
eHealth holds a huge promise for the transgender community, especially in rural communities with a severe lack of competent healthcare providers. The ability for a young transgender female in Waco, TX to clearly understand her hormone levels, easily communicate with her doctor in Houston about the hormones needed for this month and do that all over access to the Internet is empowering. You’ve empowered the patient to take a proactive step in managing and maintaining her health care while also providing her access to a competent doctor. The same situation could be done across state lines and should!
Another example, our elderly LGBT community could greatly benefit from health IT. Currently, many LGBT elders do not have children and have very different family structures than their heterosexual counterparts. This often forces elderly LGBT individuals to rely heavily on the health care system or assisted living. If we can provide technology to better monitor their health and work with their doctors, it allows them to stay in their home longer. It’s empowering!
I could go on with several other examples, but I think it is important to remember we have the power now to spur investment, build in inner operability and build in the appropriate privacy controls all while empowering our communities to own their healthcare with their doctor.
As I mentioned early, I just returned from South by Southwest. Technology is already here and ready to assist us with our health care. We need the regulations to meet us where we are and help guide us into the future.
More information can be found at LGBTTech.org or on Twitter @LGBTTech
Please download our research here:
LGBT & Broadband – Homeless LGBT Youth