HHS Sets Data Standards for Gender Identity, Sexual Orientation

A new set of rules included in the latest update to health care data interoperability standards could be transformative in improving population health for LGBTQ+ patients, especially transgendered people. The new data standard could eventually help identify disparities and inequities experienced by people in LGBTQ+ communities and lead to changes in the ways benefit design, network agreements, capitation and grants are designed and administered, experts say.

The new rule, which HHS released on July 9, is the latest in a series of federal guidance for carriers and providers regarding electronic health record (EHR) interoperability. An HHS press release says that with the new guidance, “health IT stakeholders nationwide will have clearer direction toward the standardized, electronic exchange of social determinants of health (SDOH), sexual orientation, and gender identity (SO/GI) among several other updated data elements.” The goal, according to HHS, is “lay[ing] the foundation for the provider community to start systemizing the capture and use of SDOH and SO/GI data in the clinical setting.”

HHS emphasized that patients will not be required to disclose this information if they are not comfortable doing so.

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Peter Johnson

Peter Johnson

Peter has worked as a journalist since 2011 and has covered health care since 2020. At AIS Health, Peter covers trends in finance, business and policy that affect the health insurance and pharma sectors. For Health Plan Weekly, he covers all aspects of the U.S. health insurance sector, including employer-sponsored insurance, Medicaid managed care, Medicare Advantage and the Affordable Care Act individual marketplaces. In Radar on Drug Benefits, Peter covers the operations of (and conflicts between) pharmacy benefit managers and pharmaceutical manufacturers, with a particular focus on pricing dynamics and market access. Before joining AIS Health, Peter covered transportation, public safety and local government for various outlets in Seattle, his hometown and current place of residence. He graduated with a B.A. from Colby College.

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