Patients’ understanding of blood tests and attitudes to HIV screening in the emergency department of a Swiss teaching hospital: a cross-sectional observational study
BACKGROUND: In Switzerland, patients may undergo “blood tests” without being informed what these are screening for. Inadequate doctor-patient communication may result in patient misunderstanding. We examined what patients in the emergency department (ED) believed they had been screened for and explored their attitudes to routine (non-targeted) human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) screening.
METHODS: Between 1st October 2012 and 28th February 2013, a questionnaire-based survey was conducted among patients aged 16–70 years old presenting to the ED of Lausanne University Hospital. Patients were asked: (1) if they believed they had been screened for HIV; (2) if they agreed in principle to routine HIV screening and (3) if they agreed to be HIV tested during their current ED visit.
RESULTS: Of 466 eligible patients, 411 (88%) agreed to participate. Mean age was 46 ± 16 years; 192 patients (47%) were women; 366 (89%) were Swiss or European; 113 (27%) believed they had been screened for HIV, the proportion increasing with age (p ≤0.01), 297 (72%) agreed in principle with routine HIV testing in the ED, and 138 patients (34%) agreed to be HIV tested during their current ED visit.
CONCLUSION: In this ED population, 27% believed incorrectly they had been screened for HIV. Over 70% agreed in principle with routine HIV testing and 34% agreed to be tested during their current visit. These results demonstrate willingness among patients concerning routine HIV testing in the ED and highlight a need for improved doctor-patient communication about what a blood test specifically screens for.
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