Background: The demand for low-cost sexually transmitted disease (STD) services in Maricopa County (Phoenix area) is high. Improved methods for STD/HIV testing are needed to increase the number of patients receiving testing.
Objectives: The present study sought to evaluate an STD/HIV express testing (ET) option for patients identified as being at lower risk for infection.
Methods: Clients reporting current STD symptoms, contact to an infected partner, or health department referral were identified via questionnaire and routed to a traditional provider visit (PV); those not reporting these situations were routed to ET (laboratory-only). Demographics, treatment completion, and treatment intervals were compared among patients diagnosed as having chlamydia and gonorrhea through ET and PV encounters in September 2008 to July 2011. Personnel costs were compared for each of the 2 visit types. The number of clinic turn-aways for the 2-month time interval before the start of the program was compared with the 2-month interval at the end of the evaluation.
Results: Of the 36,946 clients seen at Maricopa County Department of Public Health, 7466 (20.2%) were patients seen through express visits. Overall chlamydia and gonorrhea positivity was lower among ET patients (527/7466; 7.1%) as compared with those tested through PVs (6323/29,480; 21.4%). Treatment completion rates were comparable but were higher among patients seen through PVs (99%) as compared with ET (94%). A savings of $2936 per 1000 patients seen was achieved when 20% of clients were routed through ET. Clinic turn-aways decreased significantly, from 159 clients during the 2 months before implementation of ET to 6 patients during the last 2 months of evaluation (96% reduction).
Conclusions: This ET system included an effective patient routing process that provided an efficient way to increase access to STD testing among persons at lower risk, at a reduced cost per patient, while maintaining high treatment coverage.