Communication strategies used to obtain clinical histories before remotely prescribing antibiotics for postal treatment of uncomplicated genital chlamydia: Service evaluation

Hannah McCulloch, Jonathan Syred, Gillian Holdsworth, Chris Howroyd, Elena Ardines, Paula Baraitser*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Web-based services for testing of sexually transmitted infections are widely available across the United Kingdom. Remote prescriptions with medications posted home may support prompt treatment; however, the absence of face-to-face contact with clinicians raises clinical safety issues as medical history may not be accurately provided. Objective: This service evaluation aimed to capture the use and explore the safety of 3 remote communication strategies employed within a web-based service offering remote prescriptions of antibiotics, delivered via post, for uncomplicated genital Chlamydia trachomatis. User acceptability and time-from-diagnosis-to-treatment were also obtained. Methods: Three iterations of the service were compared, where medical history was collected via SMS text message, telephone, or a secure web form before a prescription was issued. We contacted users after they were issued a prescription and completed the medical history a second time via telephone, asking when they took their medication and how they felt about the service. The primary safety measure was agreement in information supplied at 2 assessments (ie, clinical and evaluation assessment) on key elements of safe prescribing: allergies, current medications, or contraindicating clinical conditions or symptoms. Agreement in information between clinical and evaluation assessment was summarized as a binary variable. Factors associated with the assessment agreement variable were explored using univariate and multivariate analysis. The secondary evaluation measures were recall of and adherence to instructions for taking medication, time-from-diagnosis-to-treatment, and acceptability of the web-based service. Results: All web-based service users, resident in the London Boroughs of Lambeth and Southwark with a positive chlamydia diagnosis, who were eligible for and chose postal treatment between February 15, 2017, and October 24, 2017, were invited to participate in this service evaluation. Of 321 eligible users, 62.0% (199) participated. A total of 27.6% (55/199) users completed the clinical assessment via SMS text message, 40.7% (81/199) users via telephone, and 31.7% (63/199) users via a secure web form. Those who were assessed for prescription via SMS text message were less likely to have an agreement in safe prescribing information than those assessed via telephone (adjusted odds ratio [aOR] 0.22, 95% CI 0.08-0.61; P=.004). We found no statistically significant difference in odds of agreement between the web form and telephone assessment (aOR 0.50, 95% CI 0.17-1.43; P=.20). Median time-to-treatment was 4 days (IQR 3-5.5). In addition, 99.0% (196/199) of users reported understanding remote communication, and 89.9% (178/198) would use the service again. Conclusions: Postal treatment is an acceptable and rapid treatment option for uncomplicated genital chlamydia. Clinical assessment via SMS text message before remote prescription may not be accurate or sufficient. As health care is delivered via the web, strategies that support safe remote prescribing are increasingly important, as is their evaluation, which should be robust and carefully considered.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere15970
JournalJournal of Medical Internet Research
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2020


  • Bacterial
  • Electronic prescribing
  • Remote consultation
  • Sexual health
  • Sexually transmitted diseases
  • Telemedicine


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