As awareness of the health-related needs of LGBT people grows, it is reasonable to expect that opportunities for collecting patient-level data for these populations will continue to emerge. For example, the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality’s Practice Based Research Networks could be one way to collect, analyze, and disseminate data on LGBT health. It is also reasonable to expect that the inclusion of sexual- and gender-minority measures in databases will increase. Consistent with the overall thrust of this chapter, it will be important for standard measures to be developed and implemented according to procedures that have been tested and found effective for ensuring privacy and confidentiality at all levels of health care organizations, including education of patients and their support persons, as well as providers and administrators. The use of patient-level data holds great potential for yielding a better understanding of the health status and health-related needs of LGBT people and how these differ from those of other groups in the U.S. population.
Qualitative research methods can bring unique strengths to efforts to understand LGBT health. Examples of qualitative research include one-on-one interviews, focus groups, and cognitive interviews. Qualitative studies cannot be used to assess the characteristics of an entire population, but they do allow for a more detailed account of individuals’ experiences as members of LGBT populations (Binson et al., 2007). These accounts can help a researcher identify hypotheses that could be tested in another study and lay the groundwork for future research. This type of perspective is ordinarily unavailable from sample survey based research. In addition, qualitative research can assist in developing quantitative instruments for studying LGBT populations. Qualitative methods are particularly well suited to
explore understudied areas of inquiry, social settings, behaviors, or groups;
build knowledge of key issues to refine elements of research designs for subsequent quantitative study;
understand thought processes, experiences, or meanings of phenomena;
describe and explain complexity and situational context in lived experience; and
generate novel understandings and formulate explanations of patterns of human experience.
In studies of LGBT health, qualitative research is particularly relevant in exploring and explaining meanings of sexual- and gender-minority status