Improving the design of studies evaluating the impact of diagnostic tests for tuberculosis on health outcomes: a qualitative study of perspectives of diverse stakeholders

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


  • Eleanor A. Ochodo
  • Selvan Naidoo
  • Samuel Schumacher
  • Karen R. Steingart
  • Frank Cobelens
  • Patrick M. Bossuyt
  • Taryn Young
  • Mark P Nicol

Colleges, School and Institutes

External organisations

  • Department of Physics
  • Academic Medical Centre, University of Amsterdam
  • Stellenbosch University
  • Foundation for Innovative New Diagnostics
  • Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine
  • University of Western Australia
  • University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Trust


Studies evaluating the impact of Xpert MTB/RIF testing for tuberculosis (TB) have demonstrated varied effects on health outcomes with many studies showing inconclusive results. We explored perceptions among diverse stakeholders about studies evaluating the impact of TB diagnostic tests, and identified suggestions for improving these studies.

We used purposive sampling with consideration for differing expertise and geographical balance and conducted in depth semi-structured interviews. We interviewed English-speaking participants, including TB patients, and others involved in research, care or decision-making about TB diagnostics. We used the thematic approach to code and analyse the interview transcripts.

We interviewed 31 participants. Our study showed that stakeholders had different expectations with regard to test impact and how it is measured. TB test impact studies were perceived to be important for supporting implementation of tests but there were concerns about the unrealistic expectations placed on tests to improve outcomes in health systems with many influencing factors. To improve TB test impact studies, respondents suggested conducting health system assessments prior to the study; developing clear guidance on the study methodology and interpretation; improving study design by describing questions and interventions that consider the influences of the health-care ecosystem on the diagnostic test; selecting the target population at the health-care level most likely to benefit from the test; setting realistic targets for effect sizes in the sample size calculations; and interpreting study results carefully and avoiding categorisation and interpretation of results based on statistical significance alone. Researchers should involve multiple stakeholders in the design of studies. Advocating for more funding to support robust studies is essential.

TB test impact studies were perceived to be important to support implementation of tests but there were concerns about their complexity. Process evaluations of their health system context and guidance for their design and interpretation are recommended.


Original languageEnglish
JournalWellcome Open Research
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 21 Nov 2019


  • Tuberculosis, Qualitative research, Perspectives, Impact, TB tests impact, TB diagnostic tests