Inclusive innovation: 5 things you can do to make healthtech better for the LGBTQI+ community

    June 16, 2022


    Post Title

    To celebrate Pride Month 2022, we’ve teamed up with DigitalHealth.London NHS Navigator Brett Hatfield to look at some practical steps anyone working in health and care can take to make health tech more accessible and inclusive to the LGBTQI+ community.

    The LGBTQI+ community is affected by disproportionately worse health outcomes and experiences of care. Health technology and innovation can play an important role in tackling these long-standing inequalities, with progress already being made through movements such as Queertech – but it is important we keep up this momentum.

    Whether you are a clinician or commissioner, member of the LGBTQI+ community yourself or aspiring ally, any person working in the health and care system can contribute to making health and care technology better for people who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer or intersex.

    In this blog we’ll be looking at 5 steps anyone can take to get started with LGBTQI+ inclusive innovation – if you’ve got additional ideas or resources we’d love to hear from you.

    1. Learn about the health experiences of LGBTQI+ people

    People from the LGBTQI+ community have faced – and continue to face – specific barriers and challenges when it comes to health. In recent years, progress has been made on understanding some of these challenges and starting to address some of the underlying issues that have resulted in health inequalities.

    • Read Stonewall’s “LGBT in Britain Health Report” (PDF)

    On the other side of the therapeutic relationship, many LGBTQI+ NHS staff also sadly continue to experience discrimination, with one recent survey revealing that more than a quarter of lesbian, gay or bisexual staff had received bullying or poor treatment from their colleagues.

    • Read The King’s Fund blog “Supporting LGBTQ+ NHS Staff

    2. Join a community

    The LGBTQI+ community has a long tradition of connections spanning geographies, languages and backgrounds. Many thousands of communities and forums now exist in helping to bring together people who identify as LGBTQI+ (and allies) with specific interests. Many of these intersect with the worlds of health and technology, making them the perfect place for incubating ideas, discussing challenges, or simply listening and learning more about the experiences of LGBTQI+ people.

    We’ve listed a handful of relevant communities below, but many more can be found by searching the web:

    Lesbians who Tech
    Guy’s and St Thomas’ LGBT+ Network
    Pride in STEM
    LGBT+ Future NHS workspace

    3. Be data-savvy

    A particularly relevant inclusive innovation topic for people working in the design and deployment of NHS technology services is the importance of getting monitoring and data collection right.

    Monitoring refers to the collection of consistent data about service users to help identify population health risks, inequalities, or opportunities for service improvement. In many instances, having information about characteristics such as sex, gender or sexual orientation provides vital insight that makes a real difference to service users.

    Whilst monitoring (or data collection for other purposes, such as for clinical risk management) is important, the way that this monitoring is conducted is also important to consider for inclusive services. For example, if required, methods for collecting data around sex and gender should be designed inclusively to avoid excluding people who identify as trans or non-binary.

    • Read “If we’re not counted, we don’t count” (PDF), a guide from the LGBT Foundation about monitoring best practice
    • Read NHS Digital guidance on monitoring
    • Read “Let’s talk about sex*”, a blog from former NHS Digital service designer Emma Parnell about how her personal connection to the trans community helped to shape a more inclusive Covid-19 vaccination booking service

    4. Get inspired

    The future looks bright for innovations that may tackle health inequalities within the LGBTQI+ community, or improve health outcomes for people who identify as gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, queer or intersex. We’ve picked a few innovations that are already making waves:

    LVNDR, who are pioneering a new approach to inclusive and personalised healthcare that integrates with existing services
    Love Positive, who are exploring new approaches to more inclusive and body positive relationship and sex education programmes
    Plume, who are improving access to gender-affirming therapies and supporting trans people in the US
    Helsa Helps, who deliver Empathy VR (virtual reality) training combined with psychological mechanisms to immerse users in stories depicting stigma and discrimination towards minority people, experienced through the eyes of the stigmatised, addressing homophobia, transphobia, racism, and sexism
    Kalda, who offer a smartphone app for LGBTIQ+ mental wellbeing. They provide users with access to on-demand LGBTQIA+ courses and mindfulness sessions addressing some of the stressors that come with being LGBTQIA+

    Note: these apps and services may have not been formally evaluated or assessed by the Health Innovation Network and their inclusion in this article should not be considered an endorsement for use.

    Don’t forget that if you’re an innovator looking for support, you can get in touch with us!

    5. Challenge yourself

    Helping your workplace become as inclusive as possible could start with something as simple as changing your language slightly, or thinking about using your pronouns to introduce yourself. Whether you identify as LGBTQI+ yourself or you want to become an ally, what could you do to help LGBTQI+ colleagues thrive?

    • Read “Challenging the default“, an NHS Employers blog from Dr Michael Brady
    • Read “Why pronouns matter“, an NHS Confed blog from Dr Jamie Willo
    • Read “7 ways you can be an LGBTQ ally at work“, an article from Stonewall