Do private providers initiate anti-tuberculosis therapy on the basis of chest radiographs? A standardised patient study in urban India

Anita Svadzian, Benjamin Daniels, Giorgia Sulis, Jishnu Das, Amrita Daftary, Ada Kwan, Veena Das, Ranendra Das, Madhukar Pai

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Background: The initiation of anti-tuberculosis treatment (ATT) based on results of WHO-approved microbiological diagnostics is an important marker of quality tuberculosis (TB) care. Evidence suggests that other diagnostic processes leading to treatment initiation may be preferred in high TB incidence settings. This study examines whether private providers start anti-TB therapy on the basis of chest radiography (CXR) and clinical examinations. Methods: This study uses the standardized patient (SP) methodology to generate accurate and unbiased estimates of private sector, primary care provider practice when a patient presents a standardized TB case scenario with an abnormal CXR. Using multivariate log-binomial and linear regressions with standard errors clustered at the provider level, we analyzed 795 SP visits conducted over three data collection waves from 2014 to 2020 in two Indian cities. Data were inverse-probability-weighted based on the study sampling strategy, resulting in city-wave-representative results. Findings: Amongst SPs who presented to a provider with an abnormal CXR, 25% (95% CI: 21–28%) visits resulted in ideal management, defined as the provider prescribing a microbiological test and not offering a concurrent prescription for a corticosteroid or antibiotic (including anti-TB medications). In contrast, 23% (95% CI: 19–26%) of 795 visits were prescribed anti-TB medications. Of 795 visits, 13% (95% CI: 10–16%) resulted in anti-TB treatment prescriptions/dispensation and an order for confirmatory microbiological testing. Interpretation: One in five SPs presenting with abnormal CXR were prescribed ATT by private providers. This study contributes novel insights to empiric treatment prevalence based on CXR abnormality. Further work is needed to understand how providers make trade-offs between existing diagnostic practices, new technologies, profits, clinical outcomes, and the market dynamics with laboratories. Funding: This study was funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (grant OPP1091843), and the Knowledge for Change Program at The World Bank.

Original languageEnglish
Article number100152
JournalThe Lancet Regional Health - Southeast Asia
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 2023

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Infectious Diseases
  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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