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Patients Can Choose “X” As Sex Designation at Northwestern Medicine Starting Today

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Additional option will enhance communication, help staff be responsive to patient needs

Patients will soon be able to choose “X” as a sex designation at Northwestern Medicine’s 11 hospitals and more than 200 outpatient locations throughout Illinois. “X” is a sex designation on government identification documents that represents a legal sex other than male or female.

Most commonly, people who are nonbinary, intersex or transgender may opt to use “X” instead of male “M” or female “F” as a sex designation on identification documents. The designation will be available as part of the health system’s electronic medical record beginning Dec. 18.

“Northwestern Medicine hospitals and outpatient centers affirm every patient’s gender identity,” said Sumanas Jordan, MD, PhD, director of the Gender Pathways Program at Northwestern Medicine. “The new medical record designation will enhance communication with patients, align with best practices, and help our staff better meet the needs of the diverse population we serve.”

The medical record will include designations for sexual orientation and gender identity to create a comprehensive plan that matches a patient’s individual health needs.

“Research has shown that people who are nonbinary often experience more discrimination than people who identify as male or female,” Dr. Jordan said. “That discrimination can cause psychological and social distress that makes them less likely to seek the healthcare services they need. If we want our patients to be proactive about their health, we must make it clear we welcome them and affirm their gender identities.”

The decision to add the “X” designation to Northwestern Medicine’s medical record was simple, said Cindy Barnard, vice president of quality, but it was far more complex to ensure consistent information was captured in every health system process. More than 200 employees from 50 departments were involved in updating information systems and workflows with the new option. The health system designated five Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity experts to train staff about the update, with 20 live training sessions and an online training module.

“Gender identity is vital to people’s sense of who we are, and our care providers must have that information to create a comprehensive healthcare plan,” Barnard said. “The ‘X’ designation will give us a deeper understanding of our patients’ needs and help us communicate in the most respectful and sensitive way.”

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