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Study Suggests Veterans in Favor of Internet-Provided HIV Screening Information

In the U.S., approximately 25% of those who are HIV-infected do not know it. Direct outreach to patients via the Internet is a potentially efficient means of educating patients about the importance of HIV screening, and the patient’s electronic personal health record (PHR) may be a useful vehicle for such outreach. However, little is known about how patients and healthcare providers would perceive use of the PHR to disseminate disease screening measures – or whether such messages would increase HIV testing. This study examined patient and provider perceptions of Internet-based outreach to increase HIV screening among Veterans who use the VA healthcare system. Investigators conducted two rounds of focus groups– between 9/08 and 3/09 – with 12 Veterans and 15 healthcare providers at one VAMC in Boston. Focus group questions sought to contrast electronic outreach for non-sensitive conditions (i.e., diabetes, cholesterol) with HIV, which is a stigmatized condition.

Findings showed that both Veterans and providers thought that HIV screening outreach provided electronically via the PHR would improve patient access to health information, with important educational value. Providers believed that it would reinforce messages they give to their patients. Veterans could envision instances in which information provided electronically might be better than verbal information from their doctor because it would be in lay language and readily available. Veterans also believed that electronic outreach would motivate them to be proactive about their health. Most felt that electronic messages would remind them to be screened, or at least contemplate getting screened. Regarding stigma attached to an electronic message about HIV, providers expressed substantially more concerns than Veterans. Providers also expected increased workload from the electronic outreach, and suggested adding primary care resources and devising methods to smooth the flow of patients getting screened.

PubMed Logo McInnes D, Solomon J, Bokhour B, Asch S, Ross D, Nazi K, and Gifford A. Use of electronic personal health record systems to encourage HIV screening: An exploratory study of patient and provider perspectives. BMC Research Notes August 15, 2011;4(1):295.

This study was funded through VA/HSR&D’s Quality Enhancement Research Initiative (QUERI: RRP 08-251). Dr. McInnes also was supported by an HSR&D Career Development Award. Drs. McInnes, Solomon, Bokhour, and Gifford are part of HSR&D’s Center for Health Quality, Outcomes and Economic Research, Bedford, MA. Drs. Asch and Gifford co-lead HIV/Hepatitis-QUERI.

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HSR requires notification by HSR-funded investigators about all articles accepted for publication. These journal articles are reviewed by HSR and publication briefs or summaries are written for a select number of articles that are then forwarded to VHA Central Office leadership to keep them informed about important findings or information. Articles to be summarized are selected by HSR based on timeliness of the findings, interest of leadership, or potential impact on the organization. Publication briefs are written for only a small number of HSR published articles. Visit the HSR citations database for a complete listing of HSR articles and presentations.

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