Tulare County Health Care Clinics (Visalia and Farmersville) are first and only Tulare County facility in the county to be scored and recognized by the Healthcare Equality Index!
The Healthcare Equality Index (HEI) is the national Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgendered, Queer (LGBTQ) benchmarking tool used to evaluate health care centers’ policies and practices pertaining to equity and inclusion of the LGBTQ population. This tool was identified as a way to further access to care for marginalized groups during the Access to Care meeting, a subcommittee of the county Community Health Assessment and Health Improvement Planning efforts. Tulare County Public Health (TCPH) decided to pioneer the effort of participating in the HEI tool as a way to increase competencies amongst personnel, increase access for LGBTQ patients, aid in navigation of the health care system, and increase knowledge on specific LGTBQ-related health concerns.
The HEI serves to evaluate and promote equitable policies and processes that impact patients, visitors, and staff. Additionally, LGBTQ patients and their families use the tool to locate facilities that provide equitable and inclusive health care. Tulare County Public Health (Visalia and Farmersville Health Care Clinics) submitted their Healthcare Quality Index (HEI) application in October 2018 and recently received a score of 70 out of 100 points.
The Public Health Branch is leading the way by participating in the ranking process. “It is important to participate in this program to assess current processes and learn best practices for LGBTQ equality and inclusion, as well as to ensure patient-centered care to a group of individuals often overlooked,” said Public Health Director Karen Elliott. Additionally, the HEI will help expand provider and staff knowledge regarding LGBTQ clinical services and improve patient satisfaction. When asked about the announcement, Ms. Elliott stated, “It is an honor to be recognized as an equitable and inclusive health care facility by the nation’s largest civil rights organization—the Human Rights Campaign.”
To qualify, Tulare County Public Health health care centers submitted an application to take the survey. Once the application was accepted, access to the survey was granted via an online portal. The survey required applicants to conduct a self-assessment on four different criteria areas: 1) Non-Discrimination and Staff Training; 2) Patient Services and Support; 3) Employee Benefits and Policies; and 4) Patient and Community Engagement. TCPH health care centers were then issued points associated with each question based on how well TCPH demonstrated and/or met the criteria.
Since completing the survey, Public Health has already met with several partner health clinics in the county to lend insight on the process and encourage participation in the HEI so that Tulare County has more options for LGBTQ community members seeking culturally competent care.
Tulare County Public Health is proud to have reached this accomplishment, as it demonstrates its commitment to equitable, inclusive care for LGBTQ patients and their families, who can face significant challenges in securing the quality health care and respect they deserve.