4 ways to improve care for transgender, gender-diverse patients in radiology

Many transgender and gender-diverse (TGD) patients report experiencing discrimination when receiving healthcare services, according to a new analysis published in the Journal of the American College of Radiology. What can be done to improve care for TGD patients in radiology?

Lead author Justin T. Stowell, MD, of the department of radiology at Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School, and colleagues suggested numerous strategies for ensuring these patients feel more comfortable and enhancing inclusivity. These are some of those strategies:

1. Provide better education/training:

Stowell et al. explained that training all radiology personnel about the medical care and treatment of TGD patients “must become standard.” Many TGD patients report explaining their own needs to providers, but they should not be put in such a position when turning to healthcare professionals for care.

“Radiologist knowledge of gender-affirming therapies and complications will facilitate accurate diagnoses,” the authors wrote. “To our knowledge, there is no standardized curriculum or training requirement for radiology residencies. The dearth of education will serve only to perpetuate adverse encounters, substandard care, and outright discrimination of TGD persons.”

2. Conduct more research:

“In this era of big data and meaningful use, we must integrate radiologic data into prospective interdisciplinary research efforts across institutions to attain adequately powered sample sizes,” the authors wrote.

Many TGD persons do not trust the medical community and fear being “outed,” the authors added, making research efforts more difficult to complete. However, Stowell and colleagues are clear that more research is still necessary to improve patient care.

3. Update various departmental policies and procedures:

There are certain minor policy changes—asking patients about their gender identity when they sign in, for instance—that can make a big difference for TGD patients. Also, the authors added, technologists should be instructed to ask patients about their preferences to make sure they are comfortable when it is time to prepare for a medical imaging examination.

There are other things radiology providers can do, like providing gender-neutral bathrooms and dressing rooms, that can also go a long way toward improving how TGD patients feel when they arrive to receive care.

The authors also called for the American College of Radiology (ACR) to “endorse policies to ensure that gender identity is not a barrier to the equitable delivery of radiologic care, just as we do for patients of diverse races, ethnicities and religions.”

4. Show compassion and understanding through advocacy efforts:

“In addition to numerous threats to TGD persons’ federal protections for insurance coverage, military service, and bathroom use, a recent effort was made to restrict the legal definition of gender as immutably male or female, determined by one’s genitalia present at birth,” the authors wrote. “The ACR and other radiology societies must stand in opposition to such ill-informed measures.”

In addition, they added, individual radiology leaders should explore ways they can collaborate with advocacy groups to make their departments and their services more TGD patient-friendly.

Stowell and colleagues also provided readers with a glossary of terms that was a part of the study. It can be read along with their analysis.