The process of conveying a hepatitis B test result to the person being tested (irrespective of the specific result) is informed by:

  • their understanding, experience and health literacy
  • the potential implications of the result in the individual circumstances for each person
  • the type of test performed and the need for additional testing to determine the individual’s liver health and health status
  • the context in which the test is being performed and the setting of the consultation
  • the healthcare provider’s own capacity to convey test results.

The healthcare provider conveying the test results is responsible for ensuring that the person receiving the result is able to understand its implications and address the issues that the result raises. In presenting results to people with low English proficiency, accredited interpreter services should be accessed (see Informed consent for testing for details).

In all cases, healthcare providers should be mindful of health literacy levels and possible misinterpretations of the terms ’positive’ and ’negative’ when discussing test results. People may interpret a so-called ’positive’ result as good and ’negative’ result as bad. There may not be a word for, or understanding of ‘hepatitis’ and using words like virus can lead to confusion or a misunderstanding that they have been diagnosed with HIV. The term ‘healthy carrier’ or ‘carrier’ should not be used when providing a diagnosis, as all people living with chronic hepatitis B are at elevated risk of developing liver disease.

The decision of how results from a hepatitis B test indicating infection or otherwise (see Types of hepatitis B virus diagnostic tests – also called in-vitro diagnostic devices) are provided (e.g. in person, by phone) should be based on the assessment of the health-care provider responsible for conveying the result. This assessment should take into account the capacity of the person being tested to respond to the test result and their understanding of the testing process at the time of the sample collection.

It is imperative that the clinician make all attempts to ensure that the result is provided to the person who was tested. This includes:

  • confirming the person’s identity by asking for the spelling of all their names
  • making repeated contact to ensure the person is aware of the availability of the result
  • documenting all efforts to contact the person.