Gender-Affirming Care: Effective Communication for Better Patient Outcomes

Transgender and gender nonconforming (TGNC) people experience health disparities, particularly surrounding mental health. These disparities stem from discrimination, systemic biases, and a lack of knowledge and training among health professionals.
To prevent harm and ensure greater access to quality care to TGNC communities, there’s a need for training and curriculum for both current and future healthcare professionals, particularly surrounding effective communication strategies and vocabulary when treating TGNC patients. We recognized this gap, which is why Kognito is launching a simulation surrounding gender-affirming care as part of our chronic disease management suite (available later this year!).

33% of transgender people delayed seeking necessary preventative care because of mistreatment from health providers. (Source)

Every patient deserves to be affirmed, respected, and understood when seeking care. Historically, this has not been the experience for trans and gender diverse people. One in five transgender patients has been turned away by a healthcare provider, and 33% of transgender people delayed seeking preventative care because of mistreatment within the healthcare system.

Gender-Affirming Care: Why Communication Skills Matter

We all know how important the patient-provider relationship is, especially when treating chronic disease. If a patient feels confident in a provider, trusts them, and is comfortable being honest with them, they are more likely to follow treatment recommendations.

Non-adherence is a huge issue in chronic disease management. Misunderstanding and mistrust are two top reasons for non-adherence, both of which can be attributed to poor communication.

TGNC patients have an increased risk of chronic disease because they are more likely to struggle with depression, smoke daily, and use alcohol and other drugs. To help improve health outcomes, providers and health professionals should learn how to have effective conversations with their TGNC patients using the appropriate language, terminology, and communication strategies.

What does gender-affirming care look like? We consulted with subject matter experts. Through their expertise and leadership, our gender-affirming care simulation covers three essential learning objectives:

  • Understand gender-neutral language, and the importance of honoring patients’ pronouns and identity without making assumptions.
  • Apply transitional phrasing to ensure all questions are medically relevant and patients understand why their answers are important to their care.
  • Know when and how to apologize when mistakes are made to reassure the patient they are receiving compassionate care.

In a 2017 study, 83% of transgender men and trans-masculine non-binary individuals received care from a provider knowledgeable in transgender health, but only 26.9% reported that a provider had ever asked about preferred language for their anatomy. Nearly 80% said they wanted their provider to ask directly for preferred language, showing room for improvement.

Training in gender-affirming care is not just for primary care physicians. The UCSF Treatment Guidelines state that other healthcare personnel who interact with patients — front desk staff, nursing staff, lab and x-ray staff, etc. — should also receive training in order to create a safe and welcoming environment.

How Simulation Training Can Help Healthcare Providers Deliver Gender-Affirming Care

Kognito’s evidence-based role-play simulations enable organizations to rapidly build the capacity of health professionals, patients, and caregivers to lead real-life conversations that improve social, emotional, and physical health.

In our new gender-affirming care simulation, learners meet with Nicky, an AI-powered virtual transgender woman seeking care. This scenario models a real-life clinical encounter, providing hands-on practice asking for preferred pronouns, using gender-neutral language, applying transitional phrasing, and apologizing when there’s a misstep.

Nicky is reluctant to be honest because of previous trauma when seeking healthcare. She’s following up from her last visit, where she was put on heart, blood pressure, and smoking cessation medication. She has not been taking her medication, and has no intention of quitting smoking. Nicky also shows signs of depression.

As learners navigate this simulated patient encounter, they can experiment with various approaches without fear of repercussions on a real patient. They also receive tailored feedback for improvement from their virtual coach — research suggests that people are more open to receiving feedback from a synthetic agent than from a human being, and feel less judged.

It’s one thing to learn what to do, it’s another to actually do it. By practicing in a safe learning environment with a virtual patient, providers can gain skills and confidence to apply gender-affirming care when managing chronic disease, helping remove barriers that have historically made it difficult to establish a strong patient-provider relationship.

Experience the Power of Virtual Simulation

If your educational or healthcare institution is committed to preparing health professionals to apply gender-affirming care, we’d love for you to learn more about Kognito’s new simulation . Or better yet, take a demo to see the power of simulation in action.

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