The delivery of sexually transmitted infection (STI)/HIV screening results via SMS is well accepted but does not suit all patients, according to the results from a self-completed questionnaire published in Sexually Transmitted Diseases.

Text messaging after an STI/HIV test is a cost-effective way to deliver results and improve patient care, but not all patients prefer this method. Throughout October 2016, a free health center at a university hospital in Paris invited 396 patients who received screening for STI and HIV to complete an anonymous self-administered questionnaire; 360 patients completed the survey. These patients were also offered the option of being notified of their results via SMS; 68% of patients chose this option, and 32% did not.

Using data collected from the 200 patients included, researchers conducted a match case-control study, in which patients who agreed to receive screening results via SMS were matched to patients who did not wish to do so. Study investigators found that participation in the SMS program was related to patient characteristics and not STI screening results or gravity of the diseases screened; specifically, HIV and hepatitis. Multivariate analysis comparing the 2 groups found that individuals in the non-SMS participation group were more often older, socially less favored, and defined as born in Africa or Asia; they also had no university diploma and/or were living outside Paris. Further, they often did not answer sexual questions, possibly reflecting a need for privacy and discretion.

Study investigators listed 3 limitations of the study to consider. The first was that the questionnaire was available only in French and English. Second, the questionnaire only contained a proxy indicator of standard of living in the participant’s place of residence. This was done to keep the questionnaire short, and in Paris, where rents vary markedly between the city and the suburbs, it was considered a reliable measure for a short questionnaire. Last, the small sample size limited analysis of subpopulations.

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According to the study investigators, the results demonstrated that although there is general acceptability for the delivery of results via SMS, several options should be proposed to patients to increase the success of delivery. When considering the identified factors for non-SMS participation, investigators concluded that these “may reflect a preference for oral communication and/or less familiarity with use of such technology in a health context,” or that these patients may not be comfortable with the screening process and have privacy concerns or difficulty reading.

Reference

Troude P, Segouin C, Duteil C, Shelly M, de La Rochebrochard E. Text messaging after HIV and STI screening: Do patients’ profiles matter? [published online November 8 2018]. Sex Transm Dis. doi: 10.1097/OLQ.0000000000000941