Valley Health System earns “LGBTQ+ Healthcare Equality High Performer” Designation in Human Rights Campaign Foundation’s Healthcare Equality Index

June 4, 2024

Valley Health System is proud to announce its designation as an “LGBTQ+ Healthcare Equality High Performer” by the Human Rights Campaign Foundation (HRC).

The designation was awarded in the 16th iteration of HRC’s Healthcare Equality Index (HEI). A record 1,065 healthcare facilities actively participated in the HEI 2024 survey and scoring process. Of those participants, 462 received the “LGBTQ+ Healthcare Equality High Performer” designation.

"We are honored to have received this recognition, as it reinforces our commitment to promoting LGBTQ+ health equity and eliminating the disparities that persist in healthcare,” said Raffaele M. Bernardo, DO, FACP, AAHIVS, Medical Director of LGBTQ+ Services for Valley Medical Group. “Although the HEI designation helps to reflect Valley’s ongoing commitment to creating an inclusive environment for LGBTQ+ people, there is much more work to be done. This recognition helps to motivate us to continue advocating for greater health equity and access to care for the LGBTQ+ community.”

This year’s HEI comes as LGBTQ+ adults are twice as likely as non-LGBTQ+ adults to be “treated unfairly or with disrespect by a doctor or healthcare provider” in the last three years, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.

“Valley is here to provide members of the LGBTQ+ community the comprehensive healthcare they need in a safe and affirming space provided by allied health professionals,” said Dr. Bernardo. “Our Center for LGBTQ+ Care offers primary care services in addition to HIV prevention services and treatment; transgender care, including gender-affirming hormone therapy; gynecologic services; sexual health services; referrals to fertility services; and more.”

Staff at the Center can refer patients to allied Valley physicians, should a patient require a visit with a specialist.

Key highlights from this year’s HRC Health Equality Index report include:

  • Targeted health disparities reduction plans: Encouragingly, 71% of participating healthcare facilities have an official plan for reducing health disparities that specifically includes LGBTQ+ patients in addition to race, ethnicity, and linguistic concerns.
  • Work to be done: Only 27% have an externally promoted specific program to provide patient navigation or advocacy services to transgender patients.
  • Bias elimination and welcoming interactions: Just over half (53%) have a policy or policies that specifically outline procedures and practices aimed at eliminating bias and insensitivity, and ensuring appropriate, welcoming interactions with transgender patients.
  • Electronic health record sexual orientation and gender identify data: Major increases have been seen in the number of healthcare facilities collecting sexual orientation and gender identity-related (SOGI) data in their Electronic Health Records (EHR) systems. Seven of the eight relevant data points had double-digit increases.
  • Pronouns in electronic health records: The ability to collect and display a patient’s pronouns rose from 44% to 74%. This is an important tool to help prevent misgendering a patient.
  • Family and Medical Leave Act-equivalent benefits: 38% offer Family and Medical Leave Act-equivalent benefits that allow employees to take family and medical leave to care for same-sex partners as well as the children of a same-sex partner, regardless of biological or adoptive status – this is up from 34% in 2022. 
  • Comprehensive benefits for domestic partners: 41% provide medical and comprehensive health benefits to domestic partners of benefits-eligible employees, up from 34% in 2022. This is the first increase in this measure since the 2015 Obergefell decision on same-sex marriage.
  • Employee resource groups: 72% have an officially recognized LGBTQ+ employee resource group. 
  • Community engagement and support: 92% took part in or supported one or more LGBTQ+ related events or initiatives in their service area.

To read the full Healthcare Equality Index report, please click here. For more information about LGBTQ+ care at Valley, visit