Lessons Learned From iCare: A Postexamination Text-Messaging-Based Program With Sexual Assault Patients

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Background:Although beneficial, few sexual assault patients seek follow-up healthcare or counseling after a medical forensic examination. Mobile technology interventions may help patients engage in postcare, but there is a dearth of research on patients’ utilization of these interventions. The current study examines patients’ engagement with a 4-week postassault text message program (iCare), which assessed patients’ safety and well-being, if they needed assistance with accessing nonoccupational postexposure prophylaxis, or scheduling appointments for follow-up pregnancy and sexually transmitted infection testing, and their experience with the criminal justice system.Methods:This pilot study collected data from 40 adult patient records and texting communications between the nurse and patients. We utilized descriptive statistics to examine patient utilization of the program.Results:Sixty-five percent of the patients responded at least once during the program, but only two responded to every text. Nearly a quarter of the patients (22.5%) requested the texts to stop before the end of the program. A larger portion of the patients (42.5%) did not opt out but stopped replying by the third message. The program appeared to be helpful for increasing the amount of communication between the nurse and the patient, but patients rarely utilized the nurse’s offers of assistance (e.g., counseling, advocacy).Discussion:Text interventions appear to be effective for relaying information but may be limited for increasing postexamination service utilization for sexual assault patients. Future research should examine areas of patient needs in the weeks and months postexamination that can be addressed in text interventions.

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