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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