Text Campaigns Support Teenage Health Initiatives in London

Increasing numbers of GP surgeries across London are opting to use the iPLATO text messaging capability to increase the uptake of self screening tests for Chlamydia.

The iPLATO Patient Care Messaging system is being used to support initiatives aimed at addressing the dramatic increase of the infection, which according to the National Chlamydia Screening Programme (NCSP) could be affecting one in 10 people under the age of 25 who are sexually active.

From searches made on their GP systems, surgeries sent out a group text message to selected patients inviting them to call or visit their surgery to pick up or request a self test Chlamydia ‘pack’, patients taking the self test Chlamydia ‘pack’ will be asked to give a urine sample or alternatively women can take a swab from the lower vagina. The Chlamydia test is confidential, free, simple and painless.

Text messaging has been proven to be a successful way to contact ‘hard to reach’ patients, especially young adults. The use of text messaging to effectively invite young adults to GP surgeries to increase the uptake of Chlamydia self-testing has considerable potential. A recent study has proven that text messaging is an acceptable medium for communicating sexual health information to young people.

Chlamydia is the most common sexually transmitted infection in the UK. The infection has no signs or symptoms, but if left untreated can cause several long term health problems, such as permanent infertility. However, if diagnosed early, Chlamydia can be easily treated with a course of antibiotics.

Recent government modernisation strategy requirements for sexual health call for an expansion in the provision of Chlamydia screening. The NCSP aims to ensure that under 25s are aware of the risk of acquiring Chlamydia, its potential complications and have access to screening, prevention and treatment services.

Grace Kamel, administration co-ordinator at the Hampstead Group Practice in Camden PCT, one of the surgeries opting to adopt this SMS supported approach in London, said: “Getting hold of young adults for sexual health checkups is often difficult to do. The system makes it a lot easier. We decided to use texts messaging, because texting is very popular amongst young adults. The use of text messaging in this area is a really innovative idea; it’s immediate, convenient and non-intrusive.”

iPLATO Patient Care Messaging is increasingly being funded by PCTs across the UK and is being used to address important Public Health concerns such as Smoking, Flu, Childhood Immunisations and Obesity. The system works by integrating with the GPs’ clinical system where patient records are stored. GP surgeries can search the clinical information they hold on their clinical systems to target specific groups of patients for health promotion campaigns.