New study identifies barriers to transgender adults receiving supportive primary care

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Though transgender adults have more chronic conditions than their cisgender counterparts, they are less likely to have had a primary care visit in the last year.

New research published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine, conducted by the Regenstrief Institute, Indiana University School of Medicine, and Eskenazi Health explores the healthcare experiences of transgender patients and uncovered three major barriers this group faces in accessing healthcare. The aim of the study was to describe how patients experience transgender clinics and how these experiences compare to those experiences in other settings. 

In the study, researchers interviewed 21 adult patients in the Gender Health Program at Eskenazi Health in Indianapolis, a comprehensive healthcare clinic for transgender and gender-diverse adults. Participants on average were 36 years old. Seventy-six percent identified as white, and 43 percent identified as transgender females. The interviews revealed transgender patients faced three main barriers: a lack of willing or knowledgeable providers; geography; and a long wait time for appointments.  

Overall, transgender patients expressed a need for healthcare services, specifically for primary care, which are partially met by the comprehensive care clinic model. Participants engaged in the study shared both positive and negative experiences with providers outside of the transgender clinic but only positive experiences about providers from the transgender clinic. For those participants who had positive experiences in a transgender care setting, the study reported that these patients still faced long wait times and had to travel long distances to get care.

Many patients expressed negative experiences outside specialty transgender settings with providers who were unwilling or unable to provide care. Researchers concluded that there is a need for primary care providers who can and will treat transgender patients, as well as the need for healthcare spaces that feel safe to transgender patients.

This research provides an opportunity for integrative practitioners who want to be more inclusive in their practice, to address the healthcare needs of transgender patients.