Sharp HealthCare’s core values of integrity, caring, safety, innovation and excellence are what the health system looks to when considering doing something novel or revising practices. When it came to applying to be included in the Human Rights Campaign Foundation’s 2022 Healthcare Equality Index, the members of the Sharp Equality Alliance (SEA) were doing exactly that — following Sharp’s values.
This approach — paired with a great deal of hard work and systemwide cooperation — proved to be very successful. In late March, it was announced that each of Sharp’s seven hospitals has been designated as an LGBTQ+ Healthcare Equality Leader in the Human Rights Campaign Foundation’s 2022 Healthcare Equality Index.
The importance of the Healthcare Equality Index
The Healthcare Equality Index (HEI) is the national LGBTQ+ benchmarking tool that evaluates health care facilities’ policies and practices related to the equity and inclusion of their LGBTQ+ patients, visitors and employees. With a perfect score of 100 at every hospital, Sharp received the maximum ratings possible for its nondiscrimination and staff training; patient services and support; employee benefits and policies; and patient and community engagement initiatives.
“Every person deserves to have access to quality health care; be respected and heard by their doctor; and feel safe in the facility where they are receiving care,” says Tari Hanneman, director of the Health and Aging Program at the Human Rights Campaign Foundation. “The Healthcare Equality Index, at its core, strives to ensure LGBTQ+ people are protected and affirmed by their health care providers and feel safe seeking services. Our HEI active participants are truly pioneering the health care industry by implementing robust, comprehensive LGBTQ+ inclusive policies that hopefully, because of their work, will become standard practice.”
SEA in action
This valiant effort to be included in the HEI was launched and sustained by the founders, chapter leaders and members of the SEA — a volunteer organization comprised of Sharp employees to embrace the cultural diversity of Sharp and celebrate equality.
This included SEA’s executive sponsor, Lisa Allen, senior vice president of Human Resources and Talent Management; John Aganon, a senior graphic designer with Sharp System Services; John Lussier, Sharp’s director of clinical informatics; and Johnathan Gurrola, RN, an advanced clinician at Sharp Memorial Hospital. The achievement is also shared with Sharp’s executive leaders and team members across the system who continuously play a role in ensuring Sharp provides all community members with equal access to the same respect, compassion, treatment, opportunities and advancement.
“We have such a diverse group at Sharp, we are inclusive, and we support equity but not everyone is aware of this,” says Aganon. “It was time to advance our mission to embrace diversity, promote inclusion and achieve equity, and the HEI designation is a remarkable acknowledgment of our efforts on a national level.”
Allen, Aganon, Lussier, Gurrola and their SEA colleagues have been tremendously successful “walking the walk” of their mission. Together, SEA and Sharp leaders orchestrated support of the federal Equality Act (H.R. 5), which prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex, gender identity and sexual orientation. They also ensured a patient’s preferred name is featured on their electronic medical records (EMR), passed an LGBTQ+ patient care policy, and much more. Additionally, Sharp has developed diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) learning and development opportunities for all employees.
“Equity is good for everybody — it makes us healthier as a whole,” Aganon says. “When all people enjoy The Sharp Experience, the community is stronger and better for it.”