I had the opportunity late last year to write an editorial (e-mail or tweet me if you’d like a copy) about an intriguing article by researchers in the Netherlands, about a new partner notification program called Suggest-a-test. The program takes digital partner notification strategies to a new level, by not making the service available to anybody, but through STI clinic providers who give persons with a new STI a code for a “verified STI diagnosis.” They can then enter the code on the Suggest-a-test website (now called Partnerwaarschuwing), or, the provider can do it on their behalf to notify their sex partners by email or text. In addition to being an interesting new approach, the researchers were able to prove that a small but significant portion of clinic clients did use the service, and that partners notified through Suggest-a-test did present for testing. Evaluations of other services like InSPOT have not been able to show this, so it’s an important finding that shows these services work.
There’s a couple of things about this program that I think are interesting. First the use of codes for a verified diagnosis, which makes misuse of the service unlikely (not that this happens often in our experience – in the three years we’ve been operating InSpot for BC we’ve had no complaints). I also think the focus on providers is important, in addition to making services available to the general public. Doctors or nurses giving an STI diagnosis and talking about partner notification are in the best position to tell their patients about these complementary options for telling their partners.
We’ve been talking for a while about trying to develop a “partner notification toolkit” for SmartSexResource, that would include e-mail, text, letters, and tips for partner notification. Suggest-a-test gives us a new angle to think about as well, to think about codes, and resources for providers who are giving an STI diagnosis. We’re going to start our planning phase this this summer. So stay tuned!