In January 2020, the CDC’s Division of STD Prevention (DSTDP) released Recommendations for Providing Quality Sexually Transmitted Diseases Clinical Services, commonly referred to as STD QCS. The STD QCS provides recommendations to healthcare providers regarding quality clinical services for sexually transmitted diseases and sexual healthcare for both primary care and STD specialty care settings. Rather than being prescriptive, the document serves as more of a “road map” for a clinic to assess its sexual health offerings.
While an extremely important document, especially as a complement to the 2015 STD Treatment Guidelines [with updated guidelines expected soon in 2021], the STD QCS can be a bit of an overwhelming read on its own for a clinic wanting to assess its own practices and record its own steps towards scale-up. Fortunately, NACCHO, in partnership with CDC, has released the STD QCS Planning Toolkit, a marvelous and easy-to-use assessment tool that makes reviewing a clinic’s sexual health services doable in less than an hour.
In my role as Program Administrator for the STD/HIV Prevention Training Center at Johns Hopkins, I have been able to utilize the STD QCS Planning Toolkit and Assessment Tool with several STD Specialty Clinics as part of ongoing technical assistance. Immediately prior to COVID-19-related travel restrictions, I was able to bring it directly to a clinic in-person site visit, but even in our new virtual world, I have been able to easily run through it with clinics in about a half hour. I would recommend to those wanting to utilize this assessment tool to set aside an hour – a half hour to do the assessment, and then another half hour to discuss and prioritize based on what is learned. A local health department or STI clinic could do the assessment all on their own, or certainly any PTC would be more than happy to walk through it with the clinic program as part of providing technical assistance.
The Assessment Tool itself is basically an Excel spreadsheet that distills the CDC’s STD QCS into a series of “yes or no” questions: does your clinic provide [X] service? Yes/No. If a clinic’s answer is no, there are a series of fields from which to select a reason or reasons why not – for example, funding, not enough staff, population served, protocols/procedures not in place, referral process already in place. Once the entire tool is completed, a Summary Page details the responses, the amount of the recommendations that are already met, and by percentage what the most common reasons are for not providing whatever services are not currently offered. Reviewing the summary is most beneficial in its ability to concisely summarize current services and assist in prioritizing and planning next steps. For example, if several fields indicate a need for staff training to achieve certain services, one might look no further than their regional Prevention Training Center [like us] for staff training and technical assistance! Or, if certain services are a priority but lack of resources is the main barrier to implementation, now the clinic has a document that states that need. I would recommend any local health department review the entire Planning Toolkit as it can help operationalize completing the assessment and setting program priorities.
In its current iteration, the Assessment Tool is not a database – in other words, a clinic completing it would save the document for that date only, and would have to complete the tool all over again at a future date to provide comparison. I would love to see the Assessment Tool evolve towards a living document of this type, as it would make ongoing clinic program planning even that much easier to accomplish. As it stands, however, this is a great start and I am so pleased that NACCHO has made this available to us. Our program will be using it with more and more frequency as clinics reopen and wish for help scaling back up in a post COVID world.