Primary Care Perceptions and Practices on Discussion and Advice Regarding Sexual Practices
AbstractObjectives: The United States has experienced an increase in sexually transmitted infections (STIs) in the past decade, a trend that may be influenced by communication gaps between family physicians and patients. We sought to identify factors that hinder discussion about safe sexual practices and STIs, understand physicians’ perceptions of their role in preventing STIs, and explore methods of initiating discussions on sexual health.
Methods: From April 30, 2016 to September 1, 2016, family physicians at our institution were given written surveys with 22 questions to answer and rank in order of their best practice. The survey assessed participants’ age, sex, level of medical education, and possible barriers to initiating discussion and offering advice on safe sexual practices.
Results: All of the participants identified time constraints and the presence of a patient’s spouse, parents, or siblings as the most common barriers. Other barriers included fear of embarrassing patients and feeling inadequately knowledgeable about the sexual practices of lesbian, bisexual, gay, and transgender patients. All of the participants reported that patients rarely object to discussing sexual behaviors.
Conclusions: Our study identified several barriers that family physicians may face when initiating discussions and advising patients on safe sexual practices. To prevent new cases of STIs, it is important to work around these barriers to improve physician–patient communication. This can be further improved by providing continuous learning opportunities for medical students, residents, and board-certified family physicians on ways to appropriately counsel patients on safe sexual practices.
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