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LGBT-friendly healthcare search

SpectrumScore founders Naveen Jain, Phil Williams, Jun Jeon.
SpectrumScore founders Naveen Jain, Phil Williams, Jun Jeon.

Necessity remains the mother of invention.

“Patients are a spectrum. Healthcare should be too,” that’s our mantra says Phil Williams, one of three principals in the development of an app that identifies LGBT friendly medical care.

Fresh from the Gay and Lesbian Medical Association’s 35th annual conference, Williams was pumped. “Not only did he receive a bunch of positive feedback, but he established partnerships with several LGBTQ+ health organizations whose resources we can’t wait to feature on the website,” he told Central Voice.

“These past few days, we’ve received an outpouring of support from patients and providers across the nation. Many of you have personally messaged us with loads of useful feedback on features we could integrate into SpectrumScores,” Williams says.

SpectrumScores is expanding into selected cities. Alder Health Services, Harrisburg and Lancaster, is part of the app network.

"Adler Health is pleased to be part of this 21st Century innovation. The more ways we can reach the different communities we serve with culturally competent care, the more ways we are of service," Alder Health CEO Rosemary Browne says.

Central Voice: What motivated you guys to produce SpectrumScores?

Phil Williams: I met Naveen and Jun at the “Problem Night” for an innovation and entrepreneurship competition called HealthX Labs hosted by Univ. of Penn’s medical school. Team leaders pitch ideas to medical, engineering, and business students. They form interdisciplinary teams to come up with the most promising medical innovation.

CV: And you formed a team that night?

PW: No. We came away disappointed that we were unable to find an exciting project. That bonded us. Despite protests from competition organizers, we went rogue and formed a team of only medical students. We started from scratch.

CV: Where does the gay angle come in?

PW: Each of us has different motivations for wanting to help end LGBTQ+ health disparities. And we want make positive change in medicine that reflects our passion for social justice and equity in healthcare. The gay population has been underserved in medicine for too long.

CV: What is culturally competent LGBT care?

PW: The lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender population is incredibly diverse. Each subgroup has different healthcare needs. Even within each subgroup, the population is incredibly diverse coming from every possible social, cultural, and geographic background imaginable. But all of these groups have a shared history of being mistreated in healthcare, either through overt discrimination or a general lack of understanding of the unique needs of this community even among well-meaning providers.

We define culturally competent care through two related yet separate metrics: LGBTQ+ friendliness and LGBTQ+ competence. First, being friendly means a medical practice is welcoming, treating patients with dignity and respect. Second, being competent as in having skills and knowledge necessary to meet the unique needs of sexual and gender minorities. Each provider’s SpectrumScore serves as an indicator of abilities to provide culturally competent care.

CV: Did you receive LGBT-sensitive instruction in medical school?

PW: Univ. of Penn is a leading institution in caring for LGBTQ+ patients. They offer formal instruction as a “hidden curriculum” which, among other things, incorporates LGBTQ+ standardized patients into our Introduction to Clinical Medicine course.

However, the situation at other medical schools is significantly worse, and a 2011 article published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that medical schools spent an average of 5 hours on LGBTQ-targeted training. This simply is not enough time to even scratch the surface of what it takes to treat these patients.