Get access

Sexual Health Discussions with Older Adult Patients During Periodic Health Exams

Authors

  • Katie A. Ports PhD,

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Social and Behavioral Health, Virginia Commonwealth University/School of Medicine, Richmond, VA, USA
    • Corresponding Author: Katie A. Ports, PhD, Social and Behavioral Health, Virginia Commonwealth University, One Capital Square, 9th Floor, 830 E Main Street, PO Box 980149, Richmond, VA 23298, USA. Tel: 804-628-4631; Fax: 804-828-5440; E-mail: kaports@vcu.edu

    Search for more papers by this author
  • Jessica L. Barnack-Tavlaris PhD, MPH,

    1. Department of Psychology, The College of New Jersey, Ewing, NJ, USA
    Search for more papers by this author
  • Maggie L. Syme PhD, MPH,

    1. Cancer Center Comprehensive Partnership, San Diego State University/University of California, San Diego, San Diego, CA, USA
    Search for more papers by this author
  • Robert A. Perera PhD,

    1. Department of Biostatistics, Virginia Commonwealth University/School of Medicine, Richmond, VA, USA
    Search for more papers by this author
  • Jennifer Elston Lafata PhD

    1. Department of Social and Behavioral Health, Virginia Commonwealth University/School of Medicine, Richmond, VA, USA
    Search for more papers by this author

Abstract

Introduction

Sexual health is an integral part of overall health across the lifespan. In order to address sexual health issues, such as sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and sexual functioning, the sexual history of adult patients should be incorporated as a routine part of the medical history throughout life. Physicians and health-care professionals cite many barriers to attending to and assessing the sexual health needs of older adult patients, underscoring the importance of additional research to improve sexual history taking among older patients.

Aim

The purpose of this article is to explore the content and context of physician–patient sexual health discussions during periodic health exams (PHEs) with adults aged 50–80 years.

Methods

Patients completed a pre-visit telephone survey and attended a scheduled PHE with their permission to audio-record the exam. Transcribed audio recordings of 483 PHEs were analyzed according to the principles of qualitative content analysis.

Main Outcome Measures

Frequency of sexual history taking components as observed in transcripts of PHEs. Physician characteristics were obtained from health system records and patient characteristics were obtained from the pre-visit survey.

Results

Analyses revealed that approximately one-half of the PHEs included some discussion about sexual health, with the majority of those conversations initiated by physicians. A two-level logistic regression model revealed that patient–physician gender concordance, race discordance, and increasing physician age were significantly associated with sexual health discussions.

Conclusion

Interventions should focus on increasing physician self-efficacy for assessing sexual health in gender discordant and race/ethnicity concordant patient interactions. Interventions for older adults should increase education about sexual health and sexual risk behaviors, as well as empower individuals to seek information from their health-care providers. Ports KA, Barnack-Tavlaris JL, Syme ML, Perera RA, and Lafata JE. Sexual health discussions with older adult patients during periodic health exams. J Sex Med 2014;11:901–908.

Ancillary