Background: The New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene’s (DOHMH) Bureau of STD Control (BSTDC) operates STD clinics throughout NYC. To understand STD clinic patients’ access to and use of the internet and text messaging, and to measure the acceptability of receiving notifications via text message, BSTDC conducted a survey in the STD clinics in 2012.
Methods: A paper-based survey was given to all patients accessing clinic services from March-April 2012 at the 9 STD clinics. The 19 question survey was anonymous, available in English and Spanish, and completion was voluntary.
Results: Of the 3374 survey respondents, over half were male (59%) and aged 20-29 years (55%); proportions similar to the overall patient population. Eighty-nine percent of respondents had a computer and/or cellphone with internet access, and 86% had unlimited text messaging plans. Over half (51%) of respondents reported interruptions in their cell phone service in the last six months. The majority (68%) of respondents preferred to be contacted by cellphone if their test results were positive as compared to only 28% and 25% who preferred email and text messaging respectively. A majority (70%) of those surveyed would sign up for text messages when their STD test results were ready if available; while only 46% indicated an interest in receiving health education text messages from the clinic.
Conclusions: Access to mobile technology, particularly cell phones with texting capability is widespread among NYC STD clinic patients. Patients are interested in generic text alerts when their test results are ready, but more reticent to be contacted by text or email for follow-up concerns. Opportunities for disseminating health education and prevention messages to STD clinic patients via text exist. Instability in cell phone accounts and use of disposable phones will pose issues for any clinic-patient communication system that relies on phone numbers.