Health Within Reach: Using Technology To Help Asian American Communities Avoid Hepatitis B And C


About half of the 2 million Americans chronically infected with the hepatitis B virus are of Asian ancestry. In most cases, they or their parents were born in Asian countries where hepatitis B infection is common. Another 3 million people in the United States are chronically infected with hepatitis C, which can also cause liver cancer. Asian Americans may fail to undergo screening for hepatitis B and C because they don’t realize that they are at higher risk than the rest of the population—and because their doctors don’t suggest it.

SOM Tech helped researchers from the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI,) develop and test an interactive app aimed at encouraging a greater percentage of the Bay Area Asian American community to be screened.


SOM Tech worked with the PCORI-funded team on a research project designed to determine whether an app can help increase the number of Asian Americans choosing to undergo hepatitis B and C screening. The team is conducting a trial with 416 Asian Americans who have not had a hepatitis screening test, working closely with community organizations, focus groups, and two patient advisory councils in the San Francisco Bay Area.


SOM Tech’s role was to facilitate design groups with patients, collect input, and collaborate with the research team - ultimately helping to build the project’s tablet-based mobile app. “It’s actually very hard to develop an app that’s informative, interesting, and short,” says Dr. Tung Nguyen, Professor of Clinical Medicine at UCSF. Getting feedback from patient and community partners as the app was being developed was helpful, he says. The researchers sought advice on topics including how best to phrase the app’s questions to avoid misunderstandings and what color and shape the touch-screen response buttons should be. SOM Tech facilitated several usability and design sessions with patient advisory groups that gathered input critical to the project’s success.


Tung Nguyen MD, UCSF School of Medicine; Mandana Khalili, MD, San Francisco General Hospital, Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute

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Preliminary results suggest that participants like the app and find it easy to use, says Nguyen. Even older people using a tablet for the first time catch on quickly. Nguyen says he hopes the project’s findings will also contribute to a better overall understanding of how mobile health technologies can help people with limited English skills improve communication with their doctors. “We are challenging the assumption that people with limited English can’t use healthcare technology,” he says. “Our assumption is that if you design the technology right, not only will limited-English speakers be able to use it, they will love it.”