Text messaging speeds up treatment for Chlamydia infection

February 01, 2006

Text messaging the results of a Chlamydia test speeds up treatment for the infection and cuts down on staff time, suggests a six month study in the journal Sexually Transmitted Infections.

The sexual health clinic at London's Chelsea and Westminster Hospital tried out a text messaging service for the test results of sexual health screens, including Chlamydia, for six months.

This was done on the grounds that many of its patients owned a mobile phone and that text messaging was a familiar activity. Around 500 billion text messages are sent in the UK every year.

In the final month of the study, over a third of all test results were provided by text, but no personal identifying information or diagnoses were sent in these messages.

In all, 932 text messages were sent to patients who had taken a test for Chlamydia. Most of the texts read: "All your results are negative."

But in 122 texts, the recipient was asked to ring the clinic, and in 49, s/he was asked to return to the clinic. Of these, 28 had untreated Chlamydia infection.

The average number of days before the patient received the diagnosis was just under 8 for the text messaging service compared with more than 11 for standard practice¯receiving the results in person or over the phone.

Time to treatment was also significantly shorter, with the text group averaging 8.5 days compared with 15 days for the standard practice group.

The clinic had previously found that providing the results of sexual health screens to patients took up 120 hours a month. The text messaging service saved 46 hours of staff time and £609 in costs.

The authors conclude that a text messaging service minimises the risks of "missed results," and is often a more acceptable option for patients, not all of whom have access to a landline.
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BMJ Specialty Journals

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