1.4.4. User perspective

User perspectives on the value, feasibility, usability and acceptability of diagnostic technologies are important in the implementation of such technologies. If the perspectives of laboratory personnel, clinicians, patients and TB programme personnel are not considered, the technologies risk being inaccessible to and underused by those for whom they are intended.

To address questions related to user perspective, the following activities were undertaken:

  • Two systematic reviews, which synthesized the qualitative research evidence on end-user values and preferences for the use of specific TBSTs for TB infection, compared with existing tests (IGRAs and the TST). Study quality and confidence in the evidence were evaluated in accordance with the GRADE-CERQual. 
  • Twenty semi-structured interviews with a diverse range of clinicians, laboratory staff, programme officers and individuals living with TB infection (referred to as “consumers” throughout this report).
  • A discrete choice experiment (DCE) survey, drawing from themes derived in systematic reviews and semi-structured interviews. DCE methodology was used to elicit stated values and preferences from participants (end-users) without directly asking them to state their preferred options. 

Four studies were identified that met the inclusion criteria for both systematic reviews. From the review on specific TBST, only one data source was identified (from the Russian Federation), and that came from a WHO public call for data relating to the feasibility and acceptability of TBSTs. Participants were parents of children and adolescents with TB infection. From the review on current IGRAs and the TST, three peer-reviewed articles were found to meet the inclusion criteria; these three papers were from the Netherlands, South Africa and the United States of America (USA). Participants included a range of health professionals involved in TB care (Netherlands, South Africa and USA) and People with HIV (South Africa). The overall confidence in the quality of the evidence from the studies was low to moderate based on the GRADE-CERQual assessments, because the data lacked richness, with most studies reporting only summaries of participant quotes or limited direct quotes. All studies were conducted on specific subgroups (e.g. People with HIV, or parents of children and adolescents with TB infection)

For user interviews, 20 participants were recruited – 13 were TB health care providers (8 from low- and middle-income countries [LMIC]) and seven were people affected by TB (3 from LMIC). Health care providers included programme executives and decision-makers, public health practitioners and advocates, physicians, researchers and laboratory technicians, and a nurse.

For DCE, a total of 234 participants completed this activity (186 providers and 48 consumers). Overall, 59% of respondents were female and 56% were aged 36–55 years; the main countries in which respondents were based were India (26%), the USA (16%), South Africa (9%), Pakistan (8%) and Zimbabwe (7%).

The conclusions were based on the predefined research questions outlined below.

Is there important uncertainty about or variability in how much end-users value the main outcomes?

Qualitative data from the systematic reviews and end-user interviews, and quantitative data from the DCE indicated that health care consumers and providers had similar values and preferences in terms of TB infection tests. Key end-user values included test accuracy, convenience, positive patient experience, cost and resource requirements. In particular, end-users valued tests with high accuracy such as TBST and IGRAs (i.e. low false positive and false negative rates), because they reduce the risk of downstream consequences associated with false positive and false negative results (e.g. anxiety, and the need for additional testing or unnecessary treatment). End-users also preferred having a test that was convenient to administer and access. This included valuing tests that can be accessed in a community or primary care setting, that do not require follow-up visits to read test results, and that can be administered without the need for additional systems or infrastructure to be developed. These findings were initially identified from themes emerging from the systematic reviews and end-user interviews, and were confirmed by the DCE findings.

From the qualitative data from the reviews and interviews, all TB infection test options were found to have strengths and limitations in terms of convenience. End-users valued a positive consumer experience. This meant that tests with fewer psychological effects (e.g. anxiety, stigma and stress) and physical consequences (e.g. discomfort) were preferred. Tests that were more accurate tended to be associated with better consumer experience, although some aspects of consumer experience were worse in skin tests (e.g. stigma from the welt and discomfort) compared with non-skin-based tests. Low-cost tests were generally preferred due to greater accessibility in resource-limited contexts (e.g. TBST and the TST). Tests with lower resource requirements were preferred in resource-limited settings (e.g. TBST and the TST); however, this appeared to be less of a consideration in high-income countries. End-users showed a preference towards TB infection tests that used existing infrastructure in their health care setting. Data from the DCE confirmed that not requiring an in-person follow-up appointment and not requiring specialist staff or equipment to interpret or administer the test were important enduser preferences for TB testing.

What would be the impact on health equity?

Qualitative evidence from reviews and end-user interviews indicates that specific TBSTs are unlikely to create any new equity issues. Rather, TBSTs are likely to improve health equity through the provision of a more accurate, low-cost test for resource-limited settings where the TST is already in use. Moreover, their portability and low cost make them suited to use in large-scale screening programmes in vulnerable, hard-to-reach communities. However, it is possible that TBSTs may not affect health equity in low-resource settings that do not already use the TST, because there are barriers to accessing skin and other health care tests in these settings, which would need to be addressed first, regardless of the type of TB test available. In terms of test accessibility, the data from the DCE found that consumers had a strong preference for testing in the community and primary care settings, compared with hospital locations; this finding could have health equity implications.

Is the intervention acceptable to key stakeholders?

Qualitative data from systematic reviews and end-user interviews suggest that TBSTs were perceived to have greater specificity and sensitivity than the TST. Having greater test accuracy was deemed desirable to avoid the negative consequences of false positives or negatives. However, TBSTs were expected to have many of the same limitations as skin tests in terms of patient experience (e.g. the need for a return visit, discomfort, a welt on the arm and stigma) compared with IGRAs. IGRAs were deemed the preferred test option in countries that already have IGRAs in use, because the required supporting infrastructure is already in place, and because TBSTs would have comparable accuracy and performance, thus would not add value. There were also broader concerns about skin tests because these tests were viewed as a dated, basic technology that is subject to human error and interpretation. Suggestions for improving the acceptability of TBSTs included careful communication during the implementation of this test, with endorsement by health care providers and organizations (e.g. WHO). Data from the DCE found strong and consistent preferences among both health care providers and consumers for tests that minimize false positive and false negative results. The DCE also found that consumers had a strong preference for testing in the community and primary care settings compared with hospital locations.

Is the intervention feasible to implement?

Findings from the qualitative evidence synthesis (reviews and end-user interviews) support the feasibility of use of TBSTs, but only in settings where the TST is already in use, and the required resourcing and training is already in place. TBST are likely to be low-cost, portable tests that can be well-suited for low-resource health care settings, which may not be able to support IGRAs owing to the greater cost and resources required to implement IGRAs. However, if health care settings already have the necessary infrastructure in place to implement IGRAs, then that is a more feasible test option than any skin tests because IGRAs do not require a return visit to read the result (a step where patients may be lost to follow-up). Results from the DCE found that not requiring an in-person follow-up appointment, or specialist staff or equipment to interpret or administer the test, were important preferences for TB testing that would influence feasibility. There was some suggestion that providers preferred more expensive tests (when offered a choice based on a hypothetical cost of $50 compared with $25), although test cost was the least important determinant of test choice.

Book navigation