Background: At sexually transmitted disease (STD) clinics, advances in testing technology coupled with increasing demands and diminishing resources have promoted the use of testing-only visits (clinic visits with testing for STDs but no full examination) to meet increasing demands for STD services.
Objectives: The aims of the present study were to estimate the prevalence of STD diagnoses that could become “missed diagnoses” if patients would use testing-only visits and to examine patient characteristics associated with these potential missed diagnoses.
Methods: We conducted a self-administered survey of STD-related symptoms and sexual risk behaviors in patients seeking routine clinical care at 3 STD clinics. Medical charts were abstracted to estimate the prevalence of viral STDs, trichomoniasis, and other diagnoses from standard clinical services that could become missed diagnoses.
Results: Of 2582 patients included, the median age was 24 years and 50% were women. In women, overall, 3.2% were diagnosed as having a viral STD; 9.6%, trichomoniasis; and 41.0%, vulvovaginal candidiasis or symptomatic bacterial vaginosis. The prevalence of these potential missed diagnoses varied by patient characteristics, but in women who reported no symptoms, the prevalence of trichomoniasis was still 6.3%. In men, 19.3% received a diagnosis of urethritis but tested negative for both gonorrhea and chlamydia; this prevalence varied from 15.7% in those who reported no symptoms to 32.6% in those who reported malodor.
Conclusions: A high proportion of STD clients received diagnoses from standard care visits that would be missed by testing-only visits. When patients, even those asymptomatic, use testing-only visits, missed diagnoses of STDs or related genital tract conditions can be substantial. The potential disadvantages of testing-only visits should be weighed against the advantages of such visits.