NHS Greater Glasgow's pioneering centre for sexual and reproductive health, the Sandyford Initiative, is adopting mobile phone technology to deliver 'all clear' test results for sexual infections - and in the process is winning praise from patients.
In November 2004 the Sandyford launched a pilot service sending "all clear" results to patients via text messages to their mobile phones, thus reducing pressure on frontline staff and easing the anxiety of patients who are waiting to hear their outcomes.
And patients' feedback shows enormous support. Sixty-three randomly selected patients took part in an evaluation, and they unanimously said that texting results was acceptable and confidential, and that they would be happy to collect results this way in future.
The success of this service is the latest in a series of groundbreaking initiatives at the Sandyford. While texting technology is available in some other parts of the health service, the Sandyford is among the first to use automated bulk text messaging in an NHS sexual health service.
Consultant Physician in Genitourinary and HIV Medicine at the Sandyford, Dr Andy Winter, believes the use of cutting-edge technology is directly improving patient care: "Previously, our phone helpline was used by two different sets of patients - those who rang up with problems they needed to talk about and those who simply wanted to find out test results. Now most results are texted to patients, the helpline is freed up for people with problems. At the same time, we can get reassuring information out quickly to patients who're waiting for results.
"It's discreet and it works, because the majority of the population now carry mobile phones and 70% of them use text messaging. Because this system is very efficient, we're saving time and money, and other clinics are taking great interest. But the most important thing is that we're improving the service we give to patients. The feedback we're getting is very supportive indeed.
The Sandyford Initiative now performs around 1500 sexual infection screens each month and sends out around 1100 "all clear" messages. Specific consent is obtained to use the patient's mobile phone number, and patients are fully informed about the text service at the time of testing.
Chris Booth from technology partners txttools believes there is the potential to extend the use of text messaging within the health service: "The technology is now available potentially to reshape the we way communicate simple messages within the NHS. Furthermore, it's already been proved to have a significant positive impact in other areas of the public sector, like education. I think that by integrating mobile technology with what they're already doing, the Sandyford is making their services more efficient and accessible."
Notes for Editors
* The service uses txttools' browser-based, automated SMS text tool based on the meditxt application suite specifically tailored for use within the healthcare sector
* The system integrates with many PAS systems used within the NHS
* The cost to deliver each message is 10 pence.
* NHS Greater Glasgow's Sandyford Initiative provides sexual and reproductive health services for women, men and young people in Glasgow, as well as counselling, information and a range of specialist services. All services are provided free of charge, without the need to be referred by a doctor or any other practitioner. Further information is available at www.sandyford.org.
* A sexual health screen normally includes tests for genital chlamydia and gonorrhoea, and blood tests for syphilis and HIV infection. If all results are negative, a text message to that effect is sent two weeks after the date of the test. Patients are contacted personally by their agreed communication route to discuss any positive results.
For more information contact Annalena Winslow at NHS Greater Glasgow Communications on 0141 201 4447.