Perceptions and experiences of internet-based testing for sexually transmitted infections: Systematic Review and Synthesis of Qualitative Research.

Spence, Tommer, Kander, Inès, Walsh, Julia, Griffiths, Frances and Ross, Jonathan D C (2020) Perceptions and experiences of internet-based testing for sexually transmitted infections: Systematic Review and Synthesis of Qualitative Research. Journal of medical Internet research. ISSN 1438-8871.

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Internet-based testing for sexually transmitted infections (STIs) allows asymptomatic individuals to order a self-sampling kit online and receive their results electronically, reducing the need to attend a clinic unless for treatment. This approach has become increasingly common, however there is evidence that barriers exist to accessing it, particularly among some high-risk populations. We review the qualitative evidence on this topic, as qualitative research is well-placed to identify the complex influences which relate to accessing testing.


To explore perceptions and experiences of internet-based testing for STIs among users and potential users.


Searches were run through five electronic databases (CINAHL, EMBASE, MEDLINE, PsychINFO and Web of Science) to identify peer-reviewed studies published between 2005 and 2018. Search terms were drawn from four categories: STIs; testing or screening; digital health; and qualitative methods. Included studies were conducted in high-income countries and explored patient perceptions or experiences of internet-based testing, and data underwent thematic synthesis.


A total of 11 studies were included in the review, from 1735 identified in the initial search. The synthesis identified that internet-based testing is viewed widely as being acceptable, and is preferred over clinic testing by many individuals due to perceived convenience and anonymity. However, a number of studies identified concerns relating to test accuracy and lack of communication with practitioners, particularly when receiving results. There was a lack of consensus on preferred media for results delivery, although convenience and confidentiality were again strong influencing factors. The majority of included studies were limited by the fact that they researched hypothetical services.


Internet-based testing providers may benefit from emphasising its comparative convenience and privacy compared to face-to-face testing in order to improve uptake, as well as alleviating concerns about the self-sampling process. There is a clear need for further research exploring in-depth the perceptions and experiences of people who have accessed internet-based testing, and for research on internet-based testing explicitly gathering the views of populations which are at high-risk of STIs.


Item Type: Article
Subjects: WC Communicabable diseases
Divisions: Clinical Support > Infectious Diseases
Related URLs:
Depositing User: Mrs Caroline Tranter
Date Deposited: 24 Jul 2020 13:48
Last Modified: 24 Jul 2020 13:48

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