Uncovering a Role for Electronic Personal Health Records in Reducing Disparities in Sexually Transmitted Infection Rates Among Students at a Predominantly African American University: Mixed-Methods Study
Background: Black youth continue to bear an overwhelming proportion of the United States sexually transmitted infection (STI) burden, including HIV. Several studies on web-based and mobile health (mHealth) STI interventions have focused on characterizing strategies to improve HIV-related prevention and treatment interventions, risk communication, and stigma among men who have sex with men (MSM), people who use substances, and adolescent populations. The Electronic Sexual Health Information Notification and Education (eSHINE) Study was an exploratory mixed-methods study among students at a historically black university exploring perceptions on facilitating STI testing conversations with partners using electronic personal health records (PHRs). Objective: The purpose of this paper is to use eSHINE Study results to describe perceived impacts of electronic PHRs on facilitating STI testing discussions between sexual partners. Methods: Semistructured focus groups and individual in-depth interviews were conducted on a heterogeneous sample of students (n=35) between May and July 2014. Qualitative phase findings guided development of an online survey instrument for quantitative phase data collection. Online surveys were conducted using a convenience sample of students (n=354) between January and May 2015. Online survey items collected demographic information, sexual behaviors, beliefs and practices surrounding STI testing communication between partners, and beliefs about the impact of electronic PHR access on facilitating these discussions with partners. Chi-square analysis was performed to assess gender differences across quantitative measures. A Wilcoxon signed rank sum test was used to test the null hypothesis that electronic PHRs are believed to have no effect on the timing of dyadic STI health communication. Results: Participants described multiple individual and dyadic-level factors that inhibit initiating discussions about STI testing and test results with partners. Electronic PHRs were believed to improve ability to initiate conversations and confidence in STI screening information shared by partners. Among online survey participants, men were more likely to believe electronic PHRs make it easier to facilitate STI talks with potential partners (59.9% vs 51.9%; χ2=3.93, P=.05). The Wilcoxon signed-rank test results indicate significant increases in perceived discussion timing before sex with electronic PHR access (61.0% vs 40.4%; P<.001). Conclusions: Findings suggest that electronic PHR access in STI screening settings among similar populations of Black youth may improve both motivation and personal agency for initiating dyadic STI health communication. Results from this study will likely inform novel interventions that use access to electronic PHRs to stimulate important health-related discussions between sexual partners. Moving forward requires studying strategies for implementing interventions that leverage electronic PHRs to create new sexual health communication channels with providers, peers, and family among black youth.