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NC Tan, SL Cheah, EK Teo
Correspondence: Dr Ngiap-Chuan Tan, Tan.Ngiap.Chuan@singhealth.com.sg
Introduction Asymptomatic Hepatitis virus (HBV) carriers are often followed up at primary and secondary care centres in Singapore. Compliance to disease monitoring is perceived to be a barrier in their management. The study used qualitative methods to determine the health-seeking behavior of HBV carriers. Understanding such behavior will enable the attending physicians to optimise their care and promote regular disease surveillance.
Methods Data were collected from 39 HBV carriers from primary and secondary healthcare centres, with different demographic profiles in eight respective focus group discussions (FGD). A nurse conducted the FGDs using a semi-structured guideline. The qualitative data were analysed using standard content analysis technique.
Results There was evidence of doctor hopping among the HBV carriers in seeking the follow-up of their disease. Cost of review and investigations and preference for specialists' care appeared to be determinants of the sites of disease monitoring. Compliance to follow-up seemed to be sub-optimal, arising from apathy, denial, perceived inconvenience and cost of review. A significant proportion of the carriers had tried alternate therapy, took liver supplements but most found them to be ineffective. Most carriers had adopted healthier lifestyle after their diagnosis with regular exercise, smoking cessation and alcohol abstinence.
Conclusion Many HBV carriers' inadequate understanding of the disease resulted in indifferent or inappropriate health-seeking behavior towards their disease management. There is room for health education for these carriers to enhance their awareness of the disease and improve compliance to disease monitoring.
Keywords: chronic Hepatitis B infection, focus group discussion, disease monitoring, health education, health-seeking behavior
Singapore Med J 2005; 46(1): 6-10