'If we actually want to disrupt this area, we actually have to start making things more collaborative and open source.'
The numbers do the talking. There are 110 million sexually transmitted infections among women and men nationwide, with 20 million new STIs reported each year. And the price tag's no small figure either, say CDC officials, who peg direct medical costs at a whopping $16 billion annually.
City health departments are seeing local repercussions, too. Some 40 percent of people tested for STIs at the Baltimore Department of Health's clinics don't receive their results because they don't come back for their test outcomes. For those who tested positive for an STI and never found out, from both a treatment and partner safety perspective, it's not good news.
That's one of the big motivators behind the creation of Private Results, an online, open-source STI test results delivery system created by the folks at Sexual Health Innovations.
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Jessica Ladd, the founder of Sexual Health Innovations, talked about the project launch at the 2013 mHealth Summit's Health 2.0 session Dec. 9.
Ladd, who has worked in sexual health for the past 10 years, said Private Results acts as a patient portal, but a more holistic, personalized one compared to many portals today.
"Patient portals should not just deliver test results; they should be a powerful education tool for patients that help them protect their own health," said Ladd.
And Private Results certainly provides one with information. When logged in, an individual can find out where and when to be re-screened for STIs, choose to receive text or email screening reminders and find the closest place to buy condoms.
Individuals who were tested for an STI are given a card containing portal login information from their local clinic. They can then login to view their test results. To eliminate confusion for people who may think 'positive' is a good thing, rather than listing, say, 'positive' or 'negative' for chlamydia, the results are clearly explained that positive denotes you have the disease, or negative means you do not.
Providers are also able to sign in on the back end to view and better understand incidence numbers, what patients need follow ups and individual labs, making Private Results a powerful public health tool.
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"Patient portals and EMRs should not just serve patients and providers but also the public health sector," Ladd opined.
Moreover, she added, Private Results is open source, which proves to be a crucial component, as it allows third party technologies to integrate into it.
"If we actually want to disrupt this area, we actually have to start making things more collaborative and open source," said Ladd. "We're building an API into this that makes it really easy to share real-time STI outbreak data between a clinic, a local health department and a state department, and for them to send data back to providers about possible outbreaks occurring which might help change how frequently they screen certain communities for emerging STIs."