Visiting a Care Provider
Created By Rainbow Health Initiative
To begin planning a visit to a health provider, it is first essential to understand if your chosen provider is covered by your health insurance, and what cost, if any, is associated with the intended visit or procedure. When planning a visit, it is also important to factor in travel time and expense. For more rural areas, there may be a greater driving time and expense than for those who live in an urban environment. For further help planning out your visit, check out this Visit Planner worksheet.
Once you have filled out your visit planner, it is important to list the things that have gone well in your past experiences with this provider, and how you felt during those visits. It is important for your own self-care to remember that providers, nurses, and front desk staff go through education programs to teach them to do their jobs. These programs, in Minnesota, usually have little to no instruction on authentically engaging with LGBTQ communities. This is not an excuse for poor quality care though it sometimes can be helpful to remember.
Often you may be a provider’s first LGBTQ patient and using the tools within the Toolkit can help you to be prepared.
It is also possible that a provider who identifies as competent in serving gay and lesbian patients might not have experience serving transgender patients. A provider who has served transgender patients that identify on a binary might never have served genderqueer patients. Based on the discrimination, poor quality care, and micro-aggressions LGBTQ people face in can be difficult to be your own advocate. There are primary care physicians in MN that are competent providers for your unique identity and needs. You can do some research and find the one who is right for you on our Provider Directory. However, there are moments when you need to see specialists, or when you have emergencies, so being prepared sets you (and your provider) up for success.
If you are specifically looking for a care provider, you can search our provider directory.
Making an Appointment
To make an appointment, you must contact the provider’s office. If you have Internet access, you can also check to see if online scheduling is available.When setting up an appointment, you can request that the scheduler take notes on your preferred or correct name for use in the office, as well as your preferred pronouns and gender identity.
When talking with the scheduler about these concerns, make sure that for official records, the name used for patient billing matches the name you use with your health insurance. If the provider does not have a way of recording a preferred or correct name, ask them to attach an alert to the electronic file to remind them when they pull up your records. If the office primarily uses physical or paper records, you could also ask that a note with your name and pronouns be attached to the file.
Some large health provider groups, such as Blue Cross Blue Shield, also have online provider visits now for minor health concerns such as the flu or a urinary tract infection. For online appointments, you must create an online account. It is important to know when accessing this option that you often do not have the option of using chosen name or pronouns. This is because online health systems often have not upgraded systems to capture authentic identities due to cost and significant lags in billing and coding accessibility.
You may find printing out your own Healthcare Bill of Rights aids in empowering you. Click here for a wallet sized version that you can bring with you.
During the Appointment
On the day of the appointment, be sure to leave early to ensure you arrive to check in 10-15 minutes ahead of schedule. Doctors are often busy and running late due to so many patients in one day; this is frustrating, but it is still essential to get there early so that your appointment is not given away. Coordinate transportation with a friend, or plan on using other reliable transportation such as a car or well-scheduled bus route.
When checking in for the appointment, confirm that your preferred name and pronouns will be used for the appointment. Billing departments require current legal name listed on your insurance card, so this is the information most often entered into the electronic medical record. It is important to take the time that very first appointment to ensure that you’re set up for success at future visits. This means that you may need to write in your preferred name and preferred pronouns on intakes when it is not made available as an option.
When Your Appointment Begins
You will be called back and you will (generally) meet with a nurse or medical assistant for an initial assessment that can include vital signs such as heart rate, temperature and height. In a perfect world the front desk staff have communicated your preferred name, pronouns, family structure, parental nicknames etc. but there is a chance you will need to remind this staff. They will go over your reasons for visiting the office that day, and ask you to describe any medical concerns you may have, or issues you are experiencing. By using our visit planer tool below, you’ll have a list of concerns and questions written down; this way the process is streamlined, and you can best stay on track with your medical goals.
After the initial information is gathered, the doctor will then meet with you to discuss your concerns, diagnose issues, and offer treatment plans. Due to scheduling constraints, doctors are normally limited to only spend 10-15 minutes of face time per patient. Because of this, it is important to keep all conversation on topic and avoid distraction. For example, if you are in an appointment for hormone therapy consultation, and the provider begins to talk more on substance use or eating habits, simply redirect the conversation. You can state that you would be open to discussing such a topic at a later date, but for today want to solely focus on “x.” Remember that you know best what your concerns are, and have the most insight on your needs. Work to clearly communicate this with your provider while looking for their expert advice in care.
Once you have decided on a plan of action for care with your provider, be sure to request copies of any new records made, as well as information on when, where and who will be performing your follow-up care or providing your medication.
After the Appointment
After coming out of a health appointment, take time to engage in self-care and reflect on the meeting. Review the questions and goals that you set before entering the appointment. Compare these to the answers and solutions that were presented. Review the path of action.
You can also reconnect with the scheduling staff in your provider’s office to ensure the correct billing codes are being used for your care, so that everything is submitted correctly and covered appropriately by your insurance.
Family Tree Clinic
1619 Dayton Ave #205
St. Paul, MN 55104
Minnesota Transgender Health Coalition
730 E 38th Street Suite 108
Minneapolis, MN 55407