Rush University System for Health has been named a LGBTQ+ Healthcare Equality Leader in the Healthcare Equality Index. This index is based on an annual survey of how U.S. health care facilities treat lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer/questioning patients and their families, as well as their own LGBTQ+ employees.
This year was the first time RUSH applied for the leader designation for the entire system. Prior to this year, all three RUSH hospitals repeatedly had been named a Leader in LGBT Healthcare Equality (as the designation previously was known).
Rush University Medical Center was named a leader for 12 consecutive years, Rush Oak Park Hospital received seven consecutive leader designations, and Rush Copley Medical Center received leader designations in 2019 and 2020, the last times the HEI named hospitals to its leader list.
This year, fewer than 500 hospitals or health systems in the country earned leader status, out of nearly 5,700 hospitals nationwide.
The HEI 2022 findings, which were announced today, are the 14th edition of the report by the educational arm of the Human Rights Campaign, the largest U.S. LGBTQ+ organization. The report is intended to encourage equal care of LGBTQ+ patients.
“Diversity and inclusion are crucial to RUSH’s mission, and that includes our long-standing commitment to LGBTQ+ health care. As this year’s HEI shows, our LGBTQ+ patients can be assured of receiving affirming, personalized care from RUSH, and our staff and students can be assured of working and learning in a respectful, supportive environment. It’s very meaningful to all of us across the system to be acknowledged for the excellent care we provide for members of this important community,” says Marcos DeLeon, chief diversity officer and chief human resources officer for RUSH.
The HEI evaluates and scores health care facilities on detailed criteria in the following four central areas:
- Foundational policies and training in LGBTQ+ patient-centered care
- LGBTQ+ patient services and support
- Employee benefits and policies
- Patient and community engagement.
RUSH received the maximum score in each section, for a total score of 100 points, to earn the status of 2022 LGBTQ+ Healthcare Equality Leader.
RUSH’s commitment to a welcoming environment for LGBTQ+ patients, students, employees and visitors includes the LGBTQ+ Leadership Council of Rush’s Diversity Leadership Council, which provides guidance to Rush University Medical Center, Rush University, Rush Oak Park Hospital and Rush Copley Medical Center about diversity issues and initiates events throughout the year to promote diversity.
“I’m proud to work for an organization that is so committed to reducing health disparities for LGBTQ+ patients,” says Matthew Vail, MA, LCSW, manager of social work and patient navigation for Affirm: The Rush Center for Gender, Sexuality and Reproductive Health.
Commitment includes transgender health benefits, Affirm
Due in part to the council’s efforts, at the beginning of 2016, Rush became the first health system in Illinois to offer comprehensive transgender health benefits to employees and students alike. In early 2020, the council was also instrumental in the Medical Center’s launch of Affirm. This comprehensive center provides safe, accessible, affirming and multidisciplinary, wraparound care from across Rush University System for Health to those who identify as LGBTQ+.
In addition, RUSH has implemented the following LGBTQ+ initiatives:
- Development of a comprehensive LGBTQ+ policy statement detailing RUSH’s commitment to the LGBTQ+ community
- A dedicated LGBTQ+ section on the RUSH website
- Incorporating entries for sexual orientation and gender identity into the electronic medical records system used at the Medical Center, Rush Oak Park Hospital and Rush Copley Medical Center and providing training in the entry and use of this patient information
- Development of an institutional LGBTQ+ logo, which is displayed on more than 2,000 lapel pins distributed to individuals across the Rush system and a banner carried by RUSH participants in Chicago and Aurora’s annual LGBT Pride Parades.
- Changing the signage on all public single-occupancy bathrooms on the Rush University Medical Center campus to indicate that they are “all-gender” — that is, their use is not designated specifically for either men or women. The signage is intended to be welcoming to people who are transgender or identify as being of non-binary gender (neither specifically/solely male or female).
“Every person deserves to have access to quality health care, be respected and heard by their doctor, and feel safe in the facility where they are receiving care. But LGBTQ+ people are often subject to discrimination in all spaces, including health care facilities, which leads to members of the community avoiding care and anticipating our voices will not be respected in an incredibly vulnerable environment,” said Tari Hanneman, director of health and aging at The Human Rights Campaign.
“The Healthcare Equality Index, at its core, strives to ensure LGBTQ+ people are protected and affirmed by their health care providers and feel safe seeking services. Our HEI active participants are truly pioneering the health care industry by implementing robust, comprehensive LGBTQ+ inclusive policies that hopefully, because of their work, will become standard practice.”