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 1 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." She also added, '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.
*Alexa Wilkins and Donna B. Mak (2007), Sending out an SMS: an impact and outcome evaluation of the Western Australian Department of Health's 2005 Chlamydia campaign, Health Promotion Journal of Australia;18:113-20
About Hampstead Group Practice in Camden PCT
The Hampstead Group Practice is a very busy, forward thinking and high achieving surgery serving a highly diverse population of over 10,500 patients in the Hampstead and Gospel Oak areas of Camden. We like to look at innovative ways to develop patient services and recognise that a lot of our patients have very busy lives.
iPLATO is a privately owned limited company founded in London in the autumn of 1999. In 2003, iPLATO was awarded a SMART Feasibility Grant by the Department of Trade & Industry to study the feasibility for national implementation of a system to remind outpatients about scheduled appointments using text messaging technology.
Since completing the study, the company has invested substantial resources towards overcoming the barriers to entry of the healthcare market and now provides successful healthcare solutions to NHS organisations throughout the United Kingdom - building a promising business around its flagship service 'Patient Care Messaging'.
The European Venture Contest, organised by the European Commission, recognised iPLATO as one of the top ten early stage technology ventures ready to "reshape their industry and to conquer the global market" and featured on the Red Herring Europe Top 200 of companies to watch in 2006. iPLATO experienced extensive (PCT funded) roll out of Patient Care Messaging (for GP surgeries) across 12 Primary Care Trusts in 2008.