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‘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


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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