UCSF Study Finds Patients Willing To Talk About Risky Behavior

January 04, 1999

A new University of California San Francisco study has found that patients are willing to discuss risky behavior with their primary care physicians and that it matters little whether they do that face-to-face or with the help of technology.

The study, published in the January edition of Medical Care, found that patients are willing to disclose behavior that puts them at risk for conditions ranging from HIV to domestic violence regardless of whether they believe their doctors will receive the information. In addition, the study found that patients are as willing to disclose such information in oral or written interviews -- methods previously thought to hamper discussions -- as they are with the aid of technology, such as computers.

The findings are a key step in opening up dialogue about sensitive subjects, including risky sexual behavior, drug and alcohol use and domestic violence, between doctors and their patients, said UCSF psychologist Barbara Gerbert, PhD, professor and chair of UCSF's Behavioral Sciences Division in the School of Dentistry and the study's principal investigator.

Though such discussions can ultimately help reduce patients' health risks, they all too often don't take place because physicians don't know how to broach the issues and believe patients don't want to be asked about them, Gerbert said.

The study's findings, however, should help break down such barriers, as now there is proof that patients believe that it is within their doctors' domain to know about behavior that can put their health at risk -- and it doesn't much matter what method they use to find out, Gerbert said.

"Now we know that if asked patients will tell," Gerbert said. "So the asking on the part of physicians is the important part."

The study, conducted at four San Francisco Bay Area primary care medical facilities, involved 1,952 patients who were asked to complete a questionnaire about HIV risks, drug, alcohol and tobacco use, domestic violence, oral health and seat belt use. Half were told their doctors would see the results. The other half were told only researchers would see their responses.

There were no significant differences in the two groups' answers. For example, 68 percent of patients in the first group disclosed behavior that would put them at risk for HIV versus 67 percent in the second group. Twenty percent of patients in both groups disclosed misuse of alcohol and 20 percent of patients in the first group and 22 percent of patients in the second group disclosed drug use. The answers of 31 percent of patients in the first group showed they were at-risk of domestic violence versus 32 percent in the second group.

The study also found that patients' answers did not vary much when different methods were used to administer the questionnaire. Although previous studies found that patients were more likely to answer questions about sensitive subjects truthfully when questionnaires were administered through technology, such as computers, than more personal methods, the new UCSF study found that is not necessarily the case, Gerbert said.

The most significant difference surrounded the question of HIV risk-related behavior; 71 percent of patients disclosed risky behavior when asked through technology versus 63 percent in face-to-face or written interviews. And 22 percent of patients using technology disclosed alcohol misuse versus 17 percent questioned in traditional interviews.

Those differences, however, are small enough that doctors need not be concerned about which methods they use to screen patients for risks, Gerbert said. Rather, the study shows that big facilities with access to computers and small practices that may need to use more traditional interviewing techniques will likely get similar results, she said.

"Each setting can decide what works," Gerbert said. "This gives them lots of freedom."

Co-researchers on the study are: Amy Bronstone, PhD, UCSF Division of Behavioral Sciences research associate; Steven Pantilat, MD, UCSF assistant professor of medicine; Stephen McPhee, MD, UCSF professor of medicine; Michael Allerton, MS, HIV operations policy officer, Kaiser-Permanente; and James Moe, PhD, UCSF Division of Behavioral Sciences research associate.

The study was funded by the National Institute of Mental Health.
-end-


University of California - San Francisco

Related HIV Articles from Brightsurf:

BEAT-HIV Delaney collaboratory issues recommendations measuring persistent HIV reservoirs
Spearheaded by Wistar scientists, top worldwide HIV researchers from the BEAT-HIV Martin Delaney Collaboratory to Cure HIV-1 Infection by Combination Immunotherapy (BEAT-HIV Collaboratory) compiled the first comprehensive set of recommendations on how to best measure the size of persistent HIV reservoirs during cure-directed clinical studies.

The Lancet HIV: Study suggests a second patient has been cured of HIV
A study of the second HIV patient to undergo successful stem cell transplantation from donors with a HIV-resistant gene, finds that there was no active viral infection in the patient's blood 30 months after they stopped anti-retroviral therapy, according to a case report published in The Lancet HIV journal and presented at CROI (Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections).

Children with HIV score below HIV-negative peers in cognitive, motor function tests
Children who acquired HIV in utero or during birth or breastfeeding did not perform as well as their peers who do not have HIV on tests measuring cognitive ability, motor function and attention, according to a report published online today in Clinical Infectious Diseases.

Efforts to end the HIV epidemic must not ignore people already living with HIV
Efforts to prevent new HIV transmissions in the US must be accompanied by addressing HIV-associated comorbidities to improve the health of people already living with HIV, NIH experts assert in the third of a series of JAMA commentaries.

The Lancet HIV: Severe anti-LGBT legislations associated with lower testing and awareness of HIV in African countries
This first systematic review to investigate HIV testing, treatment and viral suppression in men who have sex with men in Africa finds that among the most recent studies (conducted after 2011) only half of men have been tested for HIV in the past 12 months.

The Lancet HIV: Tenfold increase in number of adolescents on HIV treatment in South Africa since 2010, but many still untreated
A new study of more than 700,000 one to 19-year olds being treated for HIV infection suggests a ten-fold increase in the number of adolescents aged 15 to 19 receiving HIV treatment in South Africa, according to results published in The Lancet HIV journal.

Starting HIV treatment in ERs may be key to ending HIV spread worldwide
In a follow-up study conducted in South Africa, Johns Hopkins Medicine researchers say they have evidence that hospital emergency departments (EDs) worldwide may be key strategic settings for curbing the spread of HIV infections in hard-to-reach populations if the EDs jump-start treatment and case management as well as diagnosis of the disease.

NIH HIV experts prioritize research to achieve sustained ART-free HIV remission
Achieving sustained remission of HIV without life-long antiretroviral therapy (ART) is a top HIV research priority, according to a new commentary in JAMA by experts at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), part of the National Institutes of Health.

The Lancet HIV: PrEP implementation is associated with a rapid decline in new HIV infections
Study from Australia is the first to evaluate a population-level roll-out of pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) in men who have sex with men.

Researchers date 'hibernating' HIV strains, advancing BC's leadership in HIV cure research
Researchers have developed a novel way for dating 'hibernating' HIV strains, in an advancement for HIV cure research.

Read More: HIV News and HIV Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.