Computer survey is alternative for sexual histories

A computer-based survey could help GPs gather sexual history information from patients, Australian research suggests.

The study of 611 patients attending a sexual health centre showed that computer-assisted self-interview was acceptable to patients and generated similar answers as face-to-face interviews. It could be an efficient, time-saving way to collect sexual history when NICE guidance on sexual health is launched at the end of this month.

A draft version of the guidance suggests that GPs and practice nurses should offer one-to-one interventions to promote sexual health education among patients (GP, 20 November).

London GP Dr Chris Ford, a member of the RCGP Sex, Drugs and HIV working party, said: ‘It could be helpful in terms of doctors who are a bit nervous in terms of talking about sex.’

But, she said a face-to-face interview was always preferable.

North London GP Dr Richard Ma, who was part of the NICE guideline development group, said that rather than saving time, using a protocol-based questionnaire could be time consuming.

‘You can do a good sexual history in 10 minutes. We all have some way of eliciting information and refining conversation to get what we need to know.’

But GP training needs will have to be addressed when the NICE guidance is launched, said Dr Ma.

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