Directly Observed Therapy (DOT) for the Treatment of Tuberculosis

Fact sheet describing how to use DOT with TB patients.

On this page:
What is DOT?
Why use DOT?
Who can deliver DOT?
How is DOT administered?
How can a DOT provider build rapport and trust?

Download PDF version formatted for print:
Directly Observed Therapy (DOT) for the Treatment of Tuberculosis (PDF: 63KB/1 page)

National TB treatment guidelines strongly recommend using a patient-centered case management approach - including directly observed therapy (“DOT”) - when treating persons with active TB disease. DOT is especially critical for patients with drug-resistant TB, HIV-infected patients, and those on intermittent treatment regimens (i.e., 2 or 3 times weekly).

What is DOT?

DOT means that a trained health care worker or other designated individual (excluding a family member) provides the prescribed TB drugs and watches the patient swallow every dose.

Why use DOT?

  • We cannot predict who will take medications as directed, and who will not. People from all social classes, educational backgrounds, ages, genders, and ethnicities can have problems taking medications correctly.
  • Studies show that 86-90% of patients receiving DOT complete therapy, compared to 61% for those on self-administered therapy.
  • DOT helps patients finish TB therapy as quickly as possible, without unnecessary gaps.
  • DOT helps prevent TB from spreading to others.
  • DOT decreases the risk of drug-resistance resulting from erratic or incomplete treatment.
  • DOT decreases the chances of treatment failure and relapse.

Who can deliver DOT?

  • A nurse or supervised outreach worker from the patient’s county public health department normally provides DOT.
  • In some situations, it works best for clinics, home care agencies, correctional facilities, treatment centers, schools, employers, and other facilities to provide DOT, under the guidance of the local health department.
  • Family members should not be used for DOT. DOT providers must remain objective.
  • For complex regimens including IV/IM medications or twice daily dosing, home care agencies may provide DOT or share responsibilities with the local health department.
  • If resources for providing DOT are limited, priority should be given to patients most at risk. See the MDH DOT Risk Assessment form for help identifying high-priority patients.

How is DOT administered?

  • DOT includes:
    • delivering the prescribed medication
    • checking for side effects
    • watching the patient swallow the medication
    • documenting the visit
    • answering questions
  • DOT should be initiated when TB treatment starts. Do not allow the patient to try self-administering medications and missing doses before providing DOT. If the patient views DOT as a punitive measure, there is less chance of successfully completing therapy.
  • The prescribing physician should show support for DOT by explaining to the patient that DOT is widely used and very effective. The DOT provider should reinforce this message.
  • DOT works best when used with a patient-centered case management approach, including such things as:
    • helping patients keep medical appointments
    • providing ongoing patient education
    • offering incentives and/or enablers
    • connecting patients with social services or transportation
  • Patients taking daily therapy can usually self-administer their weekend doses.

How can a DOT provider build rapport and trust?

1. “Start where the patient is.”
2. Protect confidentiality.
3. Communicate clearly.
4. Avoid criticizing the patient’s behavior; respectfully offer helpful suggestions for change.
5. Be on time and be consistent.
6. Adopt and reflect a nonjudgmental attitude.

For further information or assistance making referrals for DOT, contact the Minnesota Department of Health, TB Prevention and Control Program, (651) 201-5414.

Adapted from materials from the Francis J. Curry National Tuberculosis Center and the New York City Department of Health.

1.Treatment of Tuberculosis, American Thoracic Society, CDC and Infectious Diseases Society of America, Am J Respir Crit Care Med, Vol 167, 2003 (on line at:
2. Interactive Core Curriculum on Tuberculosis (Web-based), CDC, 2004
3. “DOT Essentials: A Training Curriculum for TB Control Programs”, Francis J. Curry National Tuberculosis Center, 2003
4. “Management: Directly Observed Therapy”, New York City Department of Health, 2001.

Updated Monday, April 13, 2015 at 01:48PM