Serving an Underserved Demographic

by Brandi Lawson-Garlutzo

The lessons of delivering quality healthcare to LGBTQ+ individuals transfer to any company. There is no doubt that today many companies are striding toward becoming places where all people are welcome — employees and customers alike. The focus on diversity, equity and inclusion is especially meaningful to entities like ours that have made inclusivity our life’s work. Our experience providing quality healthcare to LGBTQ+ individuals at Spectrum Medical Care Center for more than two decades has inspired ideas that any company on a path toward a more inclusive environment will appreciate. 

During our initial years as an HIV clinic, we realized how underserved the entire LGBTQ+ community was and expanded our services to support the LGBTQ+ community as a whole. Our goal remains the same — to serve a greater portion of the community, who would otherwise be underserved or unserved entirely in the healthcare space. Even for us as experts in serving the LGBTQ+ community, when groups like LGBT Capital report LGBTQ+ purchasing power in the U.S. to be in the trillions, the numbers feel surreal. When the U.S. Census Bureau documents more than 980,000 same-sex households in the U.S. and ranks the City of Phoenix ninth in the nation for highest percentage of same-sex couples in a 2021 American Community Survey Brief, to us as healthcare providers it means there is so much more outreach and health education needed. 

With today’s heightened understanding of the importance of inclusivity, we know others see the opportunity, which makes sharing what we’ve learned along our more than 25 years’ journey all the more timely. 

Adapt and lead the conversation in our industry. Historically, LGBTQ+ healthcare focused on HIV and AIDS. Medical innovation made HIV manageable, found ways to keep it undetectable and untransmittable (U=U), and discovered medication prevention (PrEP). We knew it was important to lead healthcare changes due to these innovations, but to also broaden our value proposition. As a trusted entity, we are in a position to lead the narrative and to shape the future of holistic, preventive healthcare customized for our population of diverse LGBTQ+ patients who have healthcare needs beyond HIV services. 

Recognize the value of reputation. Already established as a trusted healthcare provider, we fill a resource gap by offering objective counsel as industries continue to bombard LGBTQ+ patients with information about new medications and treatment innovations. Our reputation earns us a position as educator, one-to-one advisor and thought leader among our healthcare peers. 

Be deliberate in hiring. Building a workforce that represents the community we serve speaks more than the best written, well-intended diversity and inclusion statement. Our hiring and screening process at Spectrum Medical Care Center is purposeful. Our team is led to embrace the responsibility of being an extension of our brand, which means treating our patients with the best healthcare enveloped in respect, understanding and dignity. 

The rewards for companies going on this journey are becoming more recognized. Prioritizing the LGBTQ+ community communicates a commitment to diversity and inclusivity, showing that the company supports all customers. In a competitive landscape, embracing the LGBTQ+ community can be a differentiator, setting the company apart from others that haven’t recognized the potential of this market. Demonstrating inclusivity, authentically, leads to brand loyalty among LGBTQ+ individuals who support companies that are consistently active in their community, leading to word-of-mouth recommendations and repeat business. Additionally, attracting diverse talent fosters innovation, and can lead to improved employee satisfaction and retention within the organization. 

Still, getting to the rewards takes a thoughtful approach. Businesses should think beyond PRIDE Month, as inclusion is a “feeling” and a way of being that requires sustained action for authenticity. LGBTQ+ individuals are not monolithic; it’s important business leaders avoid stereotypes and, instead, become familiar with the diversity within the community. Groups like the Human Rights Campaign can help other businesses learn more about LGBTQ+ terminology and culture. 

It is natural to feel uncertainty when navigating new territory. We’ve found it’s important to start from a place of truth. When in doubt, we seek counsel from trusted members of the community. In the end, when it comes to designing a culture of inclusivity, there can be no fault if it’s built on a foundation of authenticity.

Brandi Lawson-Garlutzo is Spectrum Medical Care Center’s interim executive director. She has been with Spectrum Medical Care Center for more than 10 years helping ensure patients receive the compassionate, equitable, patient-centered healthcare they deserve. The center specializes in state-of-the-art, competent and compassionate healthcare for LGBTQ+ patients. 

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