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Open Access Study protocol

Prevalence and determinants of the use of self-tests by members of the public: a mixed methods study

Angela Ryan*, Sheila Greenfield and Sue Wilson

Author Affiliations

Department of Primary Care and General Practice, The University of Birmingham, Edgbaston, Birmingham B15 2TT, UK

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BMC Public Health 2006, 6:193  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-6-193

Published: 25 July 2006

Abstract

Background

Self-tests can be used by members of the public to diagnose conditions without involving a doctor, nurse or other health professional. As technologies to design and manufacture diagnostic tests have developed, a range of self-tests have become available to the public to buy over-the-counter and via the Internet. This study aims to describe how many people have used self-tests and identify factors associated with their use.

Methods

A postal questionnaire will elicit basic information, including sociodemographic characteristics, and whether the person has used or would use specified self-tests. Consent will be sought to recontact people who want to participate further in the study, and interviews and focus groups will be used to develop hypotheses about factors associated with self-test use. These hypotheses will be tested in a case-control study. An in-depth questionnaire will be developed incorporating the identified factors. This will be sent to: people who have used a self-test (cases); people who have not used a self-test but would use one in the future (controls); and people who have not used and would not use a self-test (controls). Logistic regression analysis will be used to establish which factors are associated with self-test use.

Discussion

Self-tests do have potential benefits, for example privacy and convenience, but also potential harms, for example delay seeking treatment after a true negative result when the symptoms are actually due to another condition. It is anticipated that the outcomes from this study will include recommendations about how to improve the appropriate use of self-tests and existing health services, as well as information to prepare health professionals for patients who have used self-tests.