Bob's Pap Smear Reveals...

What's the deal when Bob, Steven, or Jake needs a pap smear? What about scheduling a prostate exam for Laurie or Veronica?

No need for a double take. I've got the right names next to the right medical tests.

But is the process for collecting gender identity information and caring for transgender individuals on track?

I'm sure you can guess that Diane Sawyer's interview with Bruce Jenner a few days ago triggered these questions. 

The former decathalon athlete spoke of his social challenges as he transitions to a woman, but what could such an evolution mean to someone's health.

Transgender patients require careful healthcare screening and treatment, and health records must clearly reflect gender identity (including name preferences) to assure appropriate communication, care, and services.

But many EHRs do not easily allow the accurate documentation of gender transition. This includes the use of pronouns (e.g., she vs. he, etc.). In most cases, significant workarounds in EHRs are required to capture this kind of information.

EHR vendors as well as CIOs should be mindful of this potential complication as they develop products and configure systems. A delay in interpreting sexual identity indicators in EHRs may hinder timely and thorough care.

For example, if a transgender patient lands in an emergency room, given the circumstances, it may prove vital for doctors to know that they are treating a man with a cervix. Or, perhaps an initial diagnosis  may change once clinicians understand the true reason for a woman's unusually high testosterone level. 

As evidenced in the Jenner interview, answers to next steps in addressing a range of transgender  issues (including health care) may not yet be completely available, but with patience and ongoing dialogue, solutions are emerging.