Policy & Regulation
Quest Survey Suggests Beliefs about STD Risk, Poor Physician-Patient Communication May Impede Screening in Young Women
16 April 2018 - - According to new research from Madison, New Jersey-based diagnostic information services provider Quest Diagnostics (NYSE: DGX), despite record high rates of new cases of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), young women who are sexually active often don't talk to their clinicians about sex and STD risk, and many aren't being tested for infection or disease as Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines recommend, the company said.
The findings from a new survey suggest that lack of direct communication between clinicians and patients, as well as false beliefs about STD risk held by both groups, may contribute to STD prevalence.
The survey examined the perceptions of 3,414 young women (15-24 years of age), 1,016 mothers of young women in this age group, and 312 primary care, OB/GYN, and other specialty physicians regarding sexual activity, sexual health, and knowledge of and screening for STDs, also known as sexually transmitted infections (STIs).
Key findings from the survey reveal that young women may not understand their STD risk. Young sexually active women cite "not feeling at risk" and "being asymptomatic" as reasons for not testing, although STDs often lack symptoms.
Fifty-one percent of young women are uncomfortable talking to their clinician about sex and STDs, and 27% may fail to be truthful with their clinician about their sexual history. For the youngest sexually active women (15-17 years of age), 43% aren't always truthful.
Additionally, 49% of young women don't recall having a clinician ask about STD screening, and less than one in four sexually active women has asked their healthcare professional for an STD test. Based on the comparison of responses of sexually active women 15-17 between 2015 and 2017, STD testing by clinicians for chlamydia and gonorrhea has decreased by 9% and 11%, respectively.
The survey also found gaps in care by some physicians, with one in four primary care physicians agreeing with the statement, "I am very uncomfortable discussing STI risk with my female patients," and 27% reporting that they could accurately diagnose STD patients "based on their symptoms," even though CDC notes, "STDs do not always cause symptoms, so it is possible to have an infection and not know it."
Additionally, one in four physicians will disregard screening guidelines if a patient is asymptomatic.
Quest provides diagnostic services to one in three American adults each year, with broad national access for patients through its 2,200 patient service centers, and relationship with half of all physicians and hospitals.
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