Valley Health earns LGBTQ+ Healthcare Equality High Performer designation

A recent Kaiser Family Foundation study showed that LGBTQ+ adults are twice as likely as non-LGBTQ+ adults to be treated unfairly or with disrespect by a doctor or health care provider.

Ensuring that is not the case at Valley Health has long been a priority for the system. That’s why Raffaele Bernardo, medical director of LGBTQ+ services for Valley Medical Group, was so thrilled to see Valley earn the designation of “LGBTQ+ Healthcare Equality High Performer” by the Human Rights Campaign Foundation.

The designation was awarded in the 16th iteration of HRC’s Healthcare Equality Index. A record 1,065 health care facilities actively participated in the HEI 2024 survey and scoring process. Of those participants, 462 received the “LGBTQ+ Healthcare Equality High Performer” designation.

“We are honored to have received this recognition, as it reinforces our commitment to promoting LGBTQ+ health equity and eliminating the disparities that persist in health care,” Bernardo said.

“Valley is here to provide members of the LGBTQ+ community the comprehensive health care they need in a safe and affirming space provided by allied health professionals. Our Center for LGBTQ+ Care offers primary care services in addition to HIV prevention services and treatment; transgender care, including gender-affirming hormone therapy; gynecologic services; sexual health services; referrals to fertility services; and more.”

Staff at the center can refer patients to allied Valley physicians, should a patient require a visit with a specialist.

Key highlights from this year’s HRC Health Equality Index report include:

  • Targeted health disparities reduction plans: Encouragingly, 71% of participating health care facilities have an official plan for reducing health disparities that specifically includes LGBTQ+ patients in addition to race, ethnicity and linguistic concerns;
  • Work to be done: Only 27% have an externally promoted specific program to provide patient navigation or advocacy services to transgender patients;
  • Bias elimination and welcoming interactions: Just over half (53%) have a policy or policies that specifically outline procedures and practices aimed at eliminating bias and insensitivity and ensuring appropriate, welcoming interactions with transgender patients;
  • Electronic Health Record sexual orientation and gender identify data: Major increases have been seen in the number of health care facilities collecting sexual orientation and gender identity-related data in their Electronic Health Records systems. Seven of the eight relevant data points had double-digit increases;
  • Pronouns in electronic health records: The ability to collect and display a patient’s pronouns rose from 44% to 74%. This is an important tool to help prevent misgendering a patient;
  • Family and Medical Leave Act-equivalent benefits: 38% offer Family and Medical Leave Act-equivalent benefits that allow employees to take family and medical leave to care for same-sex partners as well as the children of a same-sex partner, regardless of biological or adoptive status — this is up from 34% in 2022;
  • Comprehensive benefits for domestic partners: 41% provide medical and comprehensive health benefits to domestic partners of benefits-eligible employees, up from 34% in 2022. This is the first increase in this measure since the 2015 Obergefell decision on same-sex marriage;
  • Employee resource groups: 72% have an officially recognized LGBTQ+ employee resource group;
  • Community engagement and support: 92% took part in or supported one or more LGBTQ+ related events or initiatives in their service area.

Bernardo said Valley is eager to do its part — and eager to do more.

“Although the HEI designation helps to reflect Valley’s ongoing commitment to creating an inclusive environment for LGBTQ+ people, there is much more work to be done,” he said. “This recognition helps to motivate us to continue advocating for greater health equity and access to care for the LGBTQ+ community.”