Doctors, your patients want to know about sexually transmitted diseases.
They might not feel comfortable asking you about STDs, but you can take comfort in the fact that many of them are going to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for information and not some dubiously credible resource.
During 2010, 44,339 STD-related phone calls were made, and 2,123 STD-related emails were sent to CDC-INFO, the CDC’s national contact center. Data on the STD-related calls and emails were presented in a poster at the biennial meeting of the International Society for Sexually Transmitted Diseases Research.
Primary care physicians, take note: The most common STD question to the CDC was, “Can you help me locate an STD testing site in my area?” Are there ways you can make this information available to patients in your office in a way that protects their privacy, perhaps with a stack of handouts listing STD testing sites in your area or a notice on the bulletin board in your waiting room?
The most common telephone questions were about herpes (34%), STD testing and counseling (25%), and HPV (18%). The most common email questions were about herpes (34%), HPV (21%), and other STDs (12%).
CDC-INFO was established in 2005, and these findings suggest that it is serving its purpose as a useful resource. In a 2009-2010 satisfaction survey of 199 individuals who used the service, 91% said they learned new information, and 68% said they were interested in changing a behavior (most often a risky sex behavior) based on that information.
CDC researcher Dr. Rachel Kachur and colleagues noted that the phone and email STD data correlate with data from the Division of STD Prevention website , where genital herpes and HPV pages are the most visited.
You want to give your patients the information they need, and you know they won’t always ask. But let the CDC lend a hand. Even a small card saying that CDC-INFO is a resource for any and all health issues might coax shy patients to a safe, reliable resource.
Heidi Splete (on twitter @hsplete)