Ask and Tell—Gathering Data

Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell didn’t work for military service, and it doesn’t work for data collection either. AHP clinicians need details about our LGBTQ clients’ health to give the best possible care.

The new AHP Electronic Health Inventory (EHI) is a digital interface that asks clients about themselves, including questions about mental health, substance use, gender identity, and sexual orientation. The data we collect through this process expands our capacity to support both LGBTQ and HIV-related health and wellness.

This electronic health inventory can vastly improve the care we offer clients,” said Martha Shumway PhD, Associate Professor at UCSF. “We can’t build effective programs if we don’t know precisely what our clients need.”

In addition to improving individual client care, AHP will compile data, on an anonymous basis, so that AHP can demonstrate LGBTQ community health needs to potential funders of new programs. After piloting the system, AHP will roll it out to all clients in the next few months.

AHP’s Electronic Health Inventory is part of a national advocacy movement to make sure that LGBTQ folks are counted. Right now, in the United States, policy makers can only estimate the full extent of LGBT health and other disparities because they lack of data on sexual orientation and gender identity. No federal health survey includes a question on sexual orientation or gender identity, and only a few states ask respondents their sexual orientation or gender identity.

Earlier this year AHP worked with Assemblymember David Chiu’s staff as they were drafting the LGBT Disparities Reduction Act. Two weeks ago, Governor Brown signed that  bill into law. The LGBT Disparities Reduction act will ensure that LGBT individuals are fully recognized and counted by the state as it allocates health resources and services.

Historically, LGBTQ social stigma and discrimination have transformed Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell into the unspoken rule in data collection. Lack of reporting leads to invisibility and the absence of resources for LGBT individuals, because health services are funded by the government based on health needs and trends identified by large-scale data analysis.

As long as stigma and discrimination exists, some LGBTQ patients may be hesitant to report their gender identity and sexual orientation information, for fear it will be used against them. At AHP, clients can be sure that our staff will protect the confidentiality of each client’s personal information. Each LGBTQ individual who completes the electronic health inventory questionnaire contributes to the national effort to decrease health disparities in the LGBTQ and HIV-affected communities.

We are counting on our clients to help us. We want to know if our services are optimally synced with our clients’ needs. We’re counting on the data collected, powered by the support of our staff and clients, to help us expand our capacity to support LGBTQ—as well as HIV-related—health and wellness!