Patient referral: how does this work in the clinical setting?

This strategy is by far the most common form of partner notification carried out in Australia.  It is when the index person agrees to undertake the process himself or herself. In this circumstance, it is important that health-care workers discuss with the index person how he or she is going to carry out partner notification and the best time to do it.  The index person needs to have a good understanding of the infection so he or she can answer any questions the partner may have.  It will also be helpful if the index person is equipped with suggestions and resources; for example, where the partner may go to seek testing and treatment.

It may also be helpful to practise different scenarios with the index person so that he or she can adopt a means of informing the partner that is comfortable for him or her.

If the index person is going to inform their partner/s, then his or her own infection will obviously not be confidential.  Fear of others finding out about the infection that the index person has is often the main reason why he or she may prefer health-care workers do this work.

The health professional’s aim during the interview with the index person should be to motivate him or her to inform partners.  The question often arises about how the health professional will actually know that the index person completed the task.  It is always a good idea for someone to check with the index person that partner notification has actually been completed.  It may be reasonable to call the index person a few weeks after this discussion to check with him or her how things are going.  He or she may require assistance at that time and the health professional can take over the task if the index person has been unsuccessful in completing it.