Support for the LGBT community

Happy Doc Family Medicine was a proud sponsor of 2 events in Salem this month that support our LGBT community.

The first was the Red Ribbon Show, a fundraiser for organizations that work with people living with HIV/AIDS. One of my patients, Jonathan Reitan, started this event 7 years ago and continues to pour his time and energy into making it a success. This year they raised more money than ever before - more than $25,000! Thank you, Jonathan!

The second event was Capitol Pride, which was at Riverfront Park this past weekend. It was a beautiful day for music, belly dancing, and celebration in the park! Pictures to come...

Ever wondered what your doctor wrote about you?

Oregon Public Broadcasting recently ran a story about “Open Notes,” a program that several health care organizations in the Northwest have adopted that will allow patients to read their chart notes online. At Happy Doc Family Medicine, my patients have had this ability for some time now through Portal Connect, my patient portal. 

Of course by law all patients have the right to obtain their full medical records, but most don’t go to the trouble of formally requesting their records, perhaps paying a printing fee, and waiting for them to arrive in the mail. As online portals become more popular for medical practices, it’s easy for patients to log on and see not just their lab results and medication lists, but the actual notes their physicians write about them.

Like many physicians, I was initially nervous about giving my patients such easy access to their notes through the online portal. I was worried that they wouldn’t understand the note because of all the acronyms and medical jargon. What if my patients get offended, for example if they see the word “obesity” in their chart? 

After giving it some thought, I realized this was just another example of physicians being worried about stripping away protective barriers between us and our patients. I develop close relationships with my patients and I want them to know what it is I am thinking and documenting in their medical record. I invite their questions or clarifications, and if a term like “obesity” causes distress, all the better that we talk about it out in the open. 

Since I made my chart notes available to patients online, I’ve had nothing but positive feedback. People tell me they like the transparency and the ability to see exactly what has been written about them. They feel more engaged in their health care. They don’t wonder what I am writing about them in secret. I’m glad to hear other clinics are also now sharing these notes so freely.

What's a Doctor doing at Capitol Pride?

That's the question I was asked by Saerom Yoo, a journalist with the Statesman Journal. Last weekend Happy Doc helped sponsor Capitol Pride, an event celebrating the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community. Ms. Yoo wrote an article and took video of the event, and I wanted to take this opportunity to give a more detailed answer to her question.

As a minority group, the LGBT community is often underserved in our health care system, and distinct health disparities exist between heterosexual and LGBT populations. LGBT people are less likely to seek medical care, resulting in later diagnoses and more advanced disease. Discrimination against LGBT individuals has been linked to high rates of substance abuse and mental health problems, including suicide. In the LGBT community, rates of obesity, alcohol, and tobacco use are higher than in the general population. Many LGBT individuals do not feel welcome or safe in clinics, where their sexuality might be ignored or assumed to be heterosexual.

I wanted Happy Doc to have a presence at Capitol Pride to let the LGBT community know that my clinic is a safe space, welcoming of people of all sexual orientations and genders. All of the other American cities I have lived in have health providers represented at the Pride events; I see no reason for Salem to differ in this regard. 

It was also a lot of fun! Kids were running around, enjoying the free bubbles, stickers, and balloons - the more adventurous kids even had their blood pressures checked. I loved having the chance to talk to folks about their experiences in health care and how we can create a more welcoming environment.

Now that we have a booth for these types of events, I want to do more of them! If your church, motorcycle club, workplace, or whatever group you call home is going to have an event and you want me there, let me know. Salem is home to all types of people and communities and I want to meet them.

Visit the gallery below to see all of our photos!