Bulletin: “Gender” Field Changing to “Sex” in EpiCenter UI

EpiCenter’s “Gender” field label will be changing to “Sex”. All functionality and dropdown menu choices will remain the same.

Health Monitoring has chosen to re-examine our use of terminology for this field. While “sex” and “gender” have historically been used as synonyms in the healthcare field, contemporary usage has shifted to draw a distinction between the two terms. The World Health Organization (WHO) describes “sex” as referring “…to the different biological and physiological characteristics… such as chromosomes, hormones, and reproductive organs.” Again, citing from WHO, gender “…refers to the characteristics… that are socially constructed. This includes norms, behaviors and roles associated with being a woman, man, girl, or boy…”. While for many patients the terms remain synonymous, appropriate understanding of sex and gender are important to ensure that there are no barriers to care to transgender and gender-nonconforming patients.

Record keeping in most healthcare facilities has not fully caught up to the shift in language. The concepts of “sex” and “gender” are not clearly and reliably reported separately. Across all health systems it is not clear what is being asked, and across all patients it is not clear how they will answer if only asked one question. Given that ambiguity, Health Monitoring had previously made the decision to use “Gender” in EpiCenter’s user interface so as to not to create false confidence among EpiCenter users that the field represented biological characteristics exclusively.

However, HL7 terminology itself shifted between versions 2.1 and 2.4. The relevant field is now identified as “Administrative Sex”. This essentially creates yet another dimension corresponding to whatever response the system captures to whatever answer a patient gives to the question. Health Monitoring is changing terminology to align with HL7. Because “Administrative Sex” is unwieldy for the user interface, we will use “Sex”, but it should be understood to mean “Administrative Sex” and nothing more.

During Q4 of 2021, the “Gender” field label will change to “Sex” on the Charts and Maps tabs of EpiCenter. The terminology used in all reports, dashboards, and publications will be updated on a rolling basis throughout 2022.

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