Each year worldwide, 357 million people are infected with a sexually transmitted infection (STI), including half a million diagnosed in the UK. The World Health Organisation states that healthcare providers can reduce the spread of STIs in communities by treating diagnosed patients’ sexual partners.
SXT is a social enterprise that helps people to access sexual health services, and works to reduce STI transmissions. Aiming to tackle current challenges around reaching partners, SXT partnered with Bit Zesty to re-imagine the notification system.
Upon interviewing health professionals, we learned that patients are usually reluctant to notify partners of an STI risk. Because of this, most clinics manually call partners to inform them on the patient’s behalf. Clinics also need to report statistics to governing bodies, so must call again to check if the partner got treated. This process is time-consuming and frustrating for patients and healthcare professionals.
Patients with STIs are also reluctant to give out their partner’s details during consultations. They typically promise to inform the partner themselves, but often don’t due to embarrassment, fear of violence, and worries over confidentiality.
With these insights, we created user personas and ran ideation workshops with the SXT team. Our goal was to create an innovative notification system that could connect clinics, healthcare professionals, patients and their partners worldwide.
We created a tool that allows patients, or the clinic, to anonymously notify partners of an STI risk. SMS or email messages are sent to partners, informing them that they need to be tested and helping them find their nearest clinic.
To ensure patient confidentiality, data is anonymised and partner details are deleted once the notification messages are sent. All patient records are encrypted for secure communications.
Guaranteed anonymity means patients are more willing to notify their partners, which reduces the transmission of STIs.
Partners don’t have to attend an SXT clinic, as any clinic worldwide can unlock the details necessary to test the partner online. Doing this automatically notifies the originating clinic for reporting purposes.
We took an iterative approach to design and development, building the tool in stages. Each iteration was tested again on clinicians and healthcare advisors, people in clinic waiting rooms, and finally on real patients.
SXT is anonymously connecting clinics, patients and partners, and is ultimately reducing the spread of STIs.
The tool helps patients by eliminating the need for uncomfortable conversations, and addressing concerns around anonymity. Patients become willing to share contact details, and SXT is able to connect with their partners.
The tool also connects partners and clinics, making it easy for partners to find the nearest open clinic anywhere in the world.
In addition, the tool saves time for healthcare professionals, who no longer have to call partners. SXT can connect with any clinic around the world when a partner checks in, automating the reporting process. In the UK, 14 sexual health providers are trialing the service, and 8 are using it routinely, with many clinics worldwide showing interest.