Linking teens to healthcare, information through an app

health-appAt the Baylor Teen Health Clinic, our primary concern is making sure that teens and young adults get the healthcare they need, particularly those who are faced with the diagnosis of HIV.

In fact, linkage to care (the process of matching a patient to the right type of healthcare provider) is critical for patients diagnosed with HIV. This care includes not just treatment with antiretroviral medications but also psychological and social services. Linkage to care early after a diagnosis is associated with viral suppression (low or undetectable HIV viral load levels) and with transmission prevention.

Unfortunately, young people often delay their care and have worse retention rates than adults. We sought to enhance the linkage to HIV care among youth through a participatory and innovative approach—an app.

We gathered community representatives from various organizations together to address this issue. Our objectives included identifying barriers to linkage to care, finding solutions and generating a work plan. More than 50 people participated in five meetings and completed one survey per meeting.

Barriers to HIV care included concerns about disclosing HIV status, the stigma associated with HIV, lack of knowledge about resources, personal barriers and risky behaviors, lack of support and lack of access to clinics.

Solutions we identified included simplifying the linkage to care process and navigating clients through the process of receiving care, networking and establishing contacts at various agencies, policy changes and use of a smartphone app to help those diagnosed access resources and care.

Our work plan included development of just such an app, and we are pleased to be able to offer Hi52hlth, which is downloadable for free on Apple ITunes and on Google Play. Features of the app include locations of clinics with directions, up-to-date articles and videos on HIV/AIDS as well as other health topics, the ability to ask questions of health avatars, an FAQ section and more.

In the future, we hope to enhance the app by launching appointment reminders, a discussion forum and more. We will continue to address linkage to care in other ways, such as by cultivating relationships between HIV testing sites, like the Baylor Teen Health Clinic, and clinical sites, training personnel to provide youth-friendly testing and other services and more.

HIV linkage to care is a major health concern, but by continuing to engage stakeholders, we can build on our efforts to find effective solutions that lead to improved health for teens and young adults with this disease.

Additional Resources

Read more about the app.

Learn more about the Baylor Teen Health Clinic

By Ruth Buzi, director of social services at the Baylor Teen Health Clinic

 

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