June 2019 – present

The Special Programme for Research and Training in Tropical Diseases (TDR) is a global programme of scientific collaboration that helps facilitate and support efforts to combat diseases of poverty. The joint WHO Western Pacific Region (WPR)/TDR Small Grants Scheme for Implementation Research in Infectious Diseases of Poverty supports countries to strengthen capacity to conduct research and use research evidence to support policy dialogue and improve health practices.

In Viet Nam, many patients self-treat TB symptoms at pharmacies, as pharmacies are widely available, rank higher than other clinicians on patient perceptions of privacy, and do not require long waiting times or paying for service fees. There are over 57,000 across the country, the majority of which are independently owned stores. These stores are often the first point of access to medical advice and treatment for many Vietnamese.

To enhance linkage with private providers and increase referrals of people with TB symptoms, we are piloting the use of the SwipeRx platform for pharmacists. SwipeRx is the largest social network of pharmacy professionals in Southeast Asia – there are over 18,000 users in Viet Nam and 3,000 users in Ho Chi Minh City, including pharmacists, pharmacy assistants, drug sellers, and pharmacy managers and owners. The platform interface includes features like a news feed, continuing education modules, a drug information tool, and a TB referral and case notification tool linked to the Access to Care Information System (ACIS), an existing national referral software developed by FIT and the Clinton Health Access Initiative (CHAI). Individuals can be screened for TB symptoms and referred to the PCPS program for diagnosis and linkage to treatment.

In 2019, we secured a small WPR/TDR grant to support operational research studies and the use of SwipeRx in the private sector in districts 5, 8, 10, and Go Vap. Our research includes 1) measuring the yield of TB among different types of PCPS private providers and 2) evaluating the acceptability of private sector TB programs via an acceptability survey among pharmacists and their clients.