Nearly half of the two million Americans who have hepatitis B are of Asian descent. Asian Americans also are at higher risk of contracting hepatitis C. But more than 40 percent of Americans with Asian ancestry have never been tested for either strain of the disease.
Now researchers at the University of California-San Francisco School of Medicine and San Francisco General Hospital and Trauma Center are trying to change that. They are testing a new, interactive mobile application developed as part of a project funded by the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI) to raise awareness of the diseases and increase screening rates among Asian Americans.
About the App
The app — available in English, Cantonese, Mandarin, and Vietnamese — guides users through questions to understand their current knowledge of hepatitis B and C while they wait to see their doctor. Each answer prompts a prerecorded video of an Asian-American doctor explaining some of the facts and concerns related to the disease. Upon completion, which takes about 10 minutes, the doctor’s office staff will provide fact sheets about hepatitis that are tailored to the user’s responses.
For the PCORI-funded project, researchers collaborated with community groups, focus groups, and two patient advisory councils in the San Francisco Bay area. In addition to improving patients’ knowledge about hepatitis, the app also aims to overcome two other concerns Asian American patients might have about the diseases: stigma related to the diseases’ association with injectable drugs and men who have sex with men; and difficulty discussing questions with a doctor.
A trial period is underway and involves Asian American participants who have not been screened for hepatitis B or C. During the trial, some doctor’s offices will offer the hepatitis app, while others will offer patients an app focused on exercise, diet, and weight. After three months of testing, the research team will check medical records and contact patients to determine how many of the hepatitis app users received screening test for hepatitis B, C, or both. Those who ultimately undergo testing and receive positive results will be offered additional diagnostic testing.
Tung Nguyen, MD, with UCSF School of Medicine, is one of the project’s leaders and said preliminary results indicate that participants — even those who are elderly — find the app easy to use. Full results are expected by the end of 2017.