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The Acceptability of Adherence Support via Mobile Phones for Antituberculosis Treatment in South India: Exploratory Study

Nisha K Jose, Clint Vaz, ,
Published: 13 May 2022

Abstract: Background: India has the greatest burden of tuberculosis (TB). However, over 15% of the people on antitubercular therapy (ATT) in India are nonadherent. Several adherence monitoring techniques deployed in India to enhance ATT adherence have had modest effects. Increased adoption of mobile phones and other technologies pose potential solutions to measuring and intervening in ATT adherence. Several technology-based interventions around ATT adherence have been demonstrated in other countries. Objective: The objective of our study was to understand the acceptance of mobile phone adherence supports for ATT using self-administered quantitative measures among patients with TB in South India. Methods: This exploratory study was conducted at a TB treatment center (TTC) at a tertiary care center in Thrissur District, Kerala, India. We recruited 100 patients with TB on ATT using convenience sampling after obtaining written informed consent. Trained study staff administered the questionnaire in Malayalam, commonly spoken in Kerala, India. We used frequency, mean, median, and SD or IQR to describe the data. Results: Of the 100 participants diagnosed with TB on ATT, 90% used mobile phones routinely, and 84% owned a mobile phone. Ninety-five percent of participants knew how to use the calling function, while 65% of them did not know how to use the SMS function on their mobile phone. Overall, 89% of the participants did not consider mobile phone–based ATT adherence interventions an intrusion in their privacy, and 93% did not fear stigma if the adherence reminder was received by someone else. Most (95%) of the study participants preferred mobile phone reminders instead of directly observed treatment, short-course. Voice calls (n=80, 80%) were the more preferred reminder modality than SMS reminders (n=5, 5%). Conclusions: Mobile phones are likely an acceptable platform to deliver ATT adherence interventions among individuals with TB in South India. Preference of voice call reminders may inform the architecture of future adherence interventions surrounding ATT in South India.
Keywords: treatment / India / mobile phone / ATT adherence interventions / reminders / Exploratory Study / adherence supports
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