Asian Americans have a higher risk for being infected with the hepatitis B virus (HBV) than any other ethnic group in the United States. But because there are few observable early symptoms, infected Asian-American patients rarely seek the needed regular screening and care, making them more likely to develop complications such as cirrhosis and liver cancer.
Dr. Grace Ma, professor and director of the Center for Asian Health in Temple University’s College of Public Health, has recently been awarded a three-year, $1.8 million grant from the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI) to conduct a demonstration study aimed at improving the adherence to regular monitoring and treatment of the disease among HBV-infected Asian Americans.
“With this disease, regular monitoring through blood tests every six months and an ultrasound every 12 months are critical for assessing the damage that HBV may be causing to the liver,” said Dr. Ma. “Not everyone infected with HBV needs treatment, but everyone infected with HBV needs regular monitoring.”
Yet nearly 60 percent of infected Asian Americans fail to seek regular monitoring and treatment of the disease, said Dr. Ma. In addition, they often face barriers to accessing proper healthcare, such as language and lack of adequate health insurance, she said.
For this study, Ma and her team at the Center for Asian Health will target 500 HBV-infected patients at six health care clinics in Philadelphia and New York City.
Study participants will be provided with a patient navigator, who will assist them in connecting with healthcare providers and managing the healthcare system. The study will also include the use of text messages to make sure participants are monitored and treated in a timely manner.
“We want to work through these clinics to navigate those patients who don’t have the knowledge or the resources or the access to the care they need,” said Dr. Ma.
A secondary aim of the study will be assessing the effectiveness of the patient navigator on changing a patient’s knowledge, self-management and care, coping skills, social support, anxiety reduction, and quality of life as it relates to HBV.
“Ultimately, an improvement in patient adherence to regular monitoring should reduce delays in getting timely care and should improve liver cancer survival rates of HBV-infected Asian Americans,” said Dr. Ma. “If this intervention proves effective in this demonstration study of a randomized controlled trial, we could begin to disseminate it throughout the country.”
The study is one of 46 proposals funded out of 490 submitted to PCORI.