Collecting sexual orientation and gender identity information in the emergency department : The divide between patient and provider perspectives

Document Type



General Surgery


Background: In the USA, The Joint Commission and Institute of Medicine have called for collection of patient sexual orientation (SO) and gender identity (GI) information in healthcare. In a recent study, we reported that ED clinicians believe patients will refuse to provide this information; however, very few patients say they would refuse to provide SO/GI. As part of this study, we interviewed patients and providers regarding the importance of collecting this information. While these interviews were briefly summarised in our prior report, the qualitative data warranted a more thorough analysis and exposition to explore provider and patient views as well as risks and benefits of collecting SO/GI.
Methods: A purposive sample of 79 participants was recruited for semi-structured interviews between August 2014 and January 2015. Participants included community members who had a previous ED encounter and ED providers from 3 community and 2 academic centres in a major US metropolitan area. Interviews were conducted one-on-one in person, audio-recorded and transcribed verbatim. Data were analysed using the constant comparative method.
Results: Fifty-three patients and 26 ED providers participated. Patients perceived collection of SO/GI to be important in most clinical circumstances because SO/GI is relevant to their identity and allows providers to treat the whole person. However, many providers felt SO/GI was not relevant in most clinical circumstances because similar care is provided to all patients regardless of SO/GI. Patients and providers agreed there are risks associated with collecting SO/GI in the ED.
Conclusions: ED clinicians do not perceive routine collection of SO/GI to be medically relevant in most circumstances. However, patients feel routine SO/GI collection allows for recognition of individual identity and improved therapeutic relationships in the ED. These discordant perspectives may be hindering patient-centred care, especially for sexual and gender minority patients.

Publication (Name of Journal)

Emergency medicine journal