Spectrum Health embraces diversity

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Spectrum Health is working hard to lead the way to improve health care experience for all patients, including those part of the LGBTQ community.

According to Dr. John T. Duhn of Spectrum Health, there's a segment of the transgender population currently afraid to access the healthcare system.

"They may encounter providers that are not supportive or flat out discriminate against them," Duhn explains. "That's caused patients to have fear of engaging with the system. Afraid to go to the ER, afraid to sign up for a new primary care physician."

Dr. Duhn says this is the reason many transgender patients are choosing to take risks with their treatment that should be monitored by a doctor.

"A lot to times there're doing this on their own, whether buying hormones from their friends or online which I strongly discourage," Duhn said. "Estrogen has significant side effects, such as blood clots, it can increase risk of certain types of cancer, heart attacks and strokes so it`s definitely something that should be monitored at a doctor's office."

However thanks to new legislation just added to the Affordable Care Act, there are fewer hurdles for those types of patients. The Office of Civil Rights looked at transgender patients and their healthcare, and they came up with a new regulation that states insurance companies are no longer able to discriminate against patients for transgender healthcare.

"We prescribe hormones to men and women currently and insurance typically covers that but the transgender patients were often explicitly excluded from care," Duhn said. "So the new regulation says health insurance companies are not allowed to do that."

Dr. Duhn says he's proud to be part of a Spectrum Health team that is removing additional hurdles through inclusiveness and diversity training.

"The office that I'm with has gone through training and were going to try and offer training for all of our sites and all the different departments of the hospital, so that way a patient should be able to go anywhere in the system and feel like they're being treated with respect."

Training goes beyond LGBTQ, it also includes race, faith, and other categories.

"It's about having empathy and respect for people that might be different than yourself," Duhn said. "We want the system that offers an inclusive product that offers dignity to our patients.

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