AIM: To identify appropriate ways to elicit sensitive information.
INTRODUCTION: Talking about sex can be a challenge for both doctors and patients, as it may lead to shame or embarrassment. Patients may not want to share information to avoid judgment, or because they don’t realise how important certain details may be to their treatment. Therefore it’s important to ask appropriate questions to elicit necessary information. The basic rules are to use neutral language and to avoid assumptions and judgments.
Asking a patient “Are you married?” may not be appropriate in eliciting information about their sexual practices, as the assumption that married people are sexually active (and that unmarried people are not) is not valid. Asking about their sexual preferences also does not elicit information about sexual practices, as someone may not act on their preferences.
INSTRUCTIONS: For each question below, decide if it is an appropriate or inappropriate way of eliciting information about a patient’s sexual practices.
Please answer every question before continuing.
Since a doctor cannot order proper screening tests or offer effective preventive health guidance without having data on the patient’s sexual practices, appropriate questioning can help elicit sensitive information in a non-judgmental manner.
FOLLOW-UP: For any questions/statements that are inappropriate, think of alternative ways to elicit the information appropriately. You may also like to discuss these questions with colleagues to get their opinions and discuss why certain questions are appropriate or not.