Many providers say they don't raise sexual issues because they are uncomfortable with the subject, fear offending the patient, have no treatments to offer, or feel constrained by time. At the same time, 68% of patients cited fear of embarrassing a provider as a reason for not raising sexual issues.1 Clearly, discussing sex is difficult for both providers and patients.
The following steps may help facilitate conversation with your patient. After all, communicating openly with patients and families is an effective cornerstone of providing quality healthcare.2
Some providers may feel that their patients' sexual lives are too personal to ask about. Meanwhile, patients may assume their providers will tell them what they need to know. It's important healthcare providers ask themselves the tougher questions first.1
Patients may have difficulty talking to healthcare providers about sexual health for many reasons, even when they clearly are sexually active. Most people are not encouraged to discuss sexual matters openly.3
Try to put patients at ease, and let them know that taking a sexual history is an important part of a regular medical exam or physical history.
GIVE THIS A TRY
"Just so you know, I ask these questions to all of my adult and young patients, regardless of age, gender, or marital status. These questions are as important as your physical and mental health. Like the rest of our visits, this information is kept in strict confidence. Do you have any questions before we get started?"
Asking questions can help you understand your patient's at-home habits and determine whether or not she is practicing optimal care. Open-ended questions can provide a potent way of understanding another's position or feelings.2,4
Listen to what is being said (this doesn't mean you must agree with it). Maintain eye contact and make encouraging remarks such as 'I see what you are saying...' or 'Go on...'.2,4
Evidence shows that when communication is compassionate and empathetic, patients talk more openly about their symptoms and concerns.2
Appropriate follow-up can help you identify misunderstandings, answer questions, make further assessments, or adjust treatments. In addition, follow-up helps to promote a good working relationship between you and your patients.5
Survey conducted online by Harris Poll on behalf of Symbiomix Therapeutics, LLC, a Lupin Company and the American Sexual Health Association (ASHA) within the United States between September 14 and 29, 2017 among 304 US women aged 18-49 who have been diagnosed by a healthcare professional with bacterial vaginosis (BV) within the past 2 years ("women with bacterial vaginosis"). Figures for age, income, race/ethnicity, region, education, and size of household were weighted where necessary to bring them into line with their actual proportions in the population.6
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