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Elizabeth Boskey, Ph.D.

Taking Advantage of Toys

By May 4, 2012

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Scientists have known for a while that survey participants tend to be more honest about sexual activity and other stigmatized behaviors when they are given the opportunity to answer questions electronically. It's much easier for people to admit to behaviors they think that doctors or researchers won't approve of when they don't have to talk to them face to face. That's why I was so interested to read this article about using an electronic survey in the emergency room to determine whether teens should be screened for sexually transmitted diseases.

Not surprisingly, the young people who were surveyed found the computer system easy to use, these days far more difficult interfaces are pretty much ubiquitous, and many also said they preferred it to talking to a doctor. Even more importantly, from my perspective, using the survey doubled the number of teens who were tested for STDs. This sort of electronic survey could be an enormous boon for medical practices who can afford the technology and already use an electronic patient record system. Not only would it likely increase the accuracy of patient histories, but it would save a great deal of time and effort in data entry - since the patients would be doing it themselves.

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