To Feel Seen and Understood: How Health-Tech Companies Can Offer Gender Affirming Care

To Feel Seen and Understood: How Health-Tech Companies Can Offer Gender Affirming Care

July 14, 2022

Author: Naga Thovinakere, Research Analyst

We all want to be heard and to be seen. Healthcare is no exception to this. In fact, it becomes even more crucial that we feel understood, given that we are often at our most vulnerable when interacting with the healthcare system.

 Healthcare has historically mistreated marginalized groups, including sex and gender minorities. According to one study, 33% of transgender persons reported having at least one negative experience with a healthcare provider while 23% reported not seeking medical care when needed out of fear of mistreatment[1, 2]. Moreover, sex (biological attributes) and gender (sociocultural factors) influence our risk of developing certain diseases, how well we respond to medical treatments, and how often we seek health care[3]. Therefore, accounting for sex and gender is not only important for positive patient experience, but also integral for clinical care.

Current clinical guidelines for adopting accurate representations of sex and gender in clinical practices have been far and few between, and adoption has been slow and sporadic. FirstHx is committed to empowering patients to tell their stories, and offering gender-affirmative care is an important step towards that goal.

How is FirstHx technology providing gender-affirmative care?

  1. Distinguishing between sex and gender

‘Sex’ and ‘gender’ are often used interchangeably, despite having different meanings[4]. Sex refers to a set of biological attributes at birth (e.g. Male or Female). Gender refers to the social and cultural differences rather than biological roles, behaviours, expressions and identities of girls, women, boys, men, and gender diverse people[3]. Histories taken by FirstHx make a clear distinction between sex and gender and provide objective and appropriate health screening options based on a person’s needs and clinical sex characteristics.

 2. Appropriate use of person-centred language

Our history taking design allows patients to freely express their sex, gender and pronouns, thereby avoiding misgendering or ‘othering’ people.

 3. Integration of sex and gender is backed up by evidence-based science

The integration of sex and gender in the content of our histories is informed by a rigorous evidence-based scientific process. This includes an extensive literature review, meticulous study of other products in the space, and feedback from subject matter experts.

Patient voice is central to care. FirstHx aims to set new benchmarks for the digital health industry through providing culturally safe and gender-affirming practices that are consistent with medical needs and honour diversity and inclusion.

About the Author:

Naga Thovinakere is a research analyst at FirstHx. Her research interests include optimizing brain health using precision medicine, and sociocultural determinants of health. Leveraging her research experiences, Naga hopes to inform product development at FirstHx to improve patient care and medical history taking.


  1. James S, Herman J, Rankin S, et al. The Report of the 2015 U.S. Transgender Survey. 2016.

  2. McClure R, et al. Gender harmony: Improved Standards to Support Affirmative Care of Gender-marginalized People Through Inclusive Gender and Sex Representation, Journal of the American Medical Informatics Association. 2022.

  3. Government of Canada, Canadian Institutes of Health Research. “How to Integrate Sex and Gender into Research.” CIHR, 21 Aug. 2019,

  4. Canada Health Infoway. “Beyond the Binary: Sex and Gender Information in EHRs.” 2020.


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