A delay in diagnosis and initiation of treatment in patients with tuberculosis (TB) can affect the period of communicability and cost of treatment. We aimed to describe the diagnostic pathways and delays in initiation of treatment among drug-sensitive newly diagnosed TB patients in Ballabgarh, India. In May 2019, we interviewed 110 TB patients who were put on treatment in the past 2 months. It was a cross-sectional study where data collection was conducted by a physician. We used a structured questionnaire to collect the information on care-seeking practices, delays, and patient’s cost. Descriptive analysis was carried out for the pathways, delays, and patient cost. The mean number of health facility contacted before the diagnosis of TB was 2.8 (SD: 1.3); 76% of patients first sought care at a private health facility. The median total delay was 34.5 (IQR: 21–60) days; median patient delay seven (IQR: 2–21) days, median health system delay 16 (IQR: 8–45) days, median diagnostic delay 32.5 (IQR: 18–57) days, and median treatment delay two (IQR: 1–3) days. Health system delay was 2.2 times longer than patient delay; the health system delay was primarily due to delay in diagnosis. Patients contacting private health facility first had 1.7 times total delay, 2.4 times longer health system delay, and 3.4 times of direct cost compared with patients contacting a public health facility first. Accelerated efforts are needed to achieve India’s target to eliminate TB by 2025.
Address correspondence to Rakesh Kumar, Centre for Community Medicine (CCM), Old OT Block, All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), New Delhi 110029, India. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org