May 8, 2023
Adi Chandrasekhar, MD, MPH, FACP
Accessing STI services through telehealth minimizes barriers to care and enables timely interventions.
Reading the news these days, it can be hard to miss the constant buzz around how technology is powering changes in healthcare. From artificial intelligence to targeted genomic testing, we truly live at the cusp of a major technology revolution. Today, the question is how can we use the power of technology to improve delivery of services to diagnose and treat sexually transmitted infections (STIs)?
The most obvious place to start is by using technology to widen the reach of services. For every patient who comes into a clinic seeking an STI service, there are dozens more who do not take that first step to seek care. My patients cite numerous barriers, including difficulty in finding time, transportation, money, or navigation support. And then there are privacy concerns. Technology can instantly break these barriers by offering an immediate connection to STI services through a secure and reliable online platform.
Many of my patients who may benefit from STI services do not even know testing might be appropriate for them. Technology can help identify such patients who may need services by screening existing health records or patient registries. It also allows targeted advertising of services on online platforms frequented by patients at elevated risk of contracting STIs. Standing up targeted testing programs using at-home STI testing may allow public health organizations to more efficiently use their limited budget and resources for maximum impact.
Healthcare delivery via telehealth has had a demonstrable positive impact during the COVID-19 pandemic for so many of my patients. As they repeatedly note, the convenience of accessing STI services through telehealth platforms minimizes barriers to care and also allows for timely interventions. Technology revolutionizes care by delivering STI services to patients’ homes through at-home based testing. In turn, this breaks down multiple barriers such as the rural-urban divide and language access.
Telehealth technology can allow proctored collection of specimens at home for patients that need additional help and also offer rapid access to expertise. From preventive services like PrEP (Pre-exposure prophylaxis against HIV) to therapeutic interventions like rapid initiation of antiretrovirals in newly diagnosed HIV patients, the use of telehealth will continue to remain a mainstay of care for the future.
To summarize, technology offers innovative, cost-effective, and easy ways to reimagine the delivery of STI services. Whether you are a patient or a public health department, there are many ways seamlessly integrated technology can help you in your quest to reduce the STI burden.
Disclaimer: This blog content and linked materials are not intended as individual medical advice, diagnosis or treatment, and should not be considered as such. Any readers with medical concerns should contact a licensed healthcare provider. This blog is provided for informational purposes only.