‘It's all in the message’: the utility of personalised short message service (SMS) texts to remind patients at higher risk of STIs and HIV to reattend for testing—a repeat before and after study

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Abstract

Background

Patients at increased risk of sexually transmitted infections (STIs)/HIV acquisition are advised to reattend for retesting. A previous study showed that ‘generic’ text reminders did not improve reattendance.

Aim

To assess if a personalised text message with increased contact information would increase reattendance rates of at-risk patients.

Methods

Patients who are at risk of future STIs, defined by having a current acute STI, attending for emergency contraception, commercial sex workers (CSWs) or men who have sex with men (MSM), were sent a text reminder to reattend for retesting 6 weeks after initial visit. Reattendance rates were measured for September to December 2012 (control group who received a generic text message) and February to May 2014 (intervention ‘personalised message’ group who received a text message containing their first name and ways to contact the clinic). Reattendance was counted within 4 months of the end of the initial episode of care.

Results

The reattendance rate was significantly higher for the intervention group: 149/266 (56%) than the control group: 90/273 (33%) (p=0.0001) and was also significantly higher in the intervention group than the control group in patients with the following risks: recent chlamydia (64/123 (52%) vs 43/121 (36%)) (p=0.03), recent gonorrhoea (41/64 (64%) vs 4/21 (19%)) (p=0.0003) and MSM (26/45 (58%) vs 3/18 (16%)) (p=0.006). New STI rates in the reattending intervention group and controls were 26/ 149 (17%) and 13/90 (14%) (n.s), respectively.

Conclusions

Sending a personalised text message with increased contact information as a reminder for retesting increased reattendance rates by 23% in patients who are at higher risk of STIs.

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