Computers get more accurate answers on STI risk surveys

Using computer questionnaires, doctors get more accurate pictures of who needs to be tested for sexually transmitted infections.
Written by Rose Eveleth, Contributing Editor

Be honest, when your doctor asks you about your alcohol consumption or sex life, you probably lie. Maybe just a little, maybe you just leave out that one night at the bar, or that one wine tasting with your friends, but you don't always tell the whole truth. So it shouldn't surprise you that teenagers lie too. Now, researchers are finding that teens are more honest to computers than they are to people.

Researchers and doctors at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis developed a computer based survey to ask teens questions about their sexual health. In total 460 patients, between the ages of 15 and 21, took the survey. With the results, the computer recommended to doctors which patients should be tested for STIs and which shouldn't.

"When we implemented the system, we found that almost half of the patients who completed the questionnaire were in need of STI testing, and that was the same whether or not their primary complaint was related to STIs," Dr. Ahmad, the primary researcher on the work, said in the press release.

Once they implemented the computer based system, rates of testing for Chlamydia and gonorrhea nearly doubled - suggesting that twice as many teens needed testing than were getting it before. And twenty percent of those patients received treatments for STIs after the testing.

The computer test was easy to use, and 71 percent of the patients said they preferred answering a machine asking them sensitive questions than a person. And since nearly all teens and young adults are comfortable around a computer, there was nothing they really had to learn to be able to use the survey.

Overall, Ahmad hopes that by using computers and computer based surveys to collect information doctors will be able to get a better picture of what's really going on with their patients.

Via: Eurekalert

Photo: Jerry Bunkers/Flickr

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

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