CME: A Program to Rapidly Test for Hepatitis C

CME: A Program to Rapidly Test for Hepatitis C

An ED screening and diagnostic testing program found a high prevalence of hepatitis C. Results suggest that continued efforts are needed to develop and evaluate policies for ED-based hepatitis C screening.   Hepatitis C virus affects about 3 million Americans and is a leading cause of end-stage liver disease, hepatocellular carcinoma, and liver transplants. National recommendations endorse using risk-based hepatitis C screening, which includes screening patients with a history of injection drug use as well as one-time screenings of “baby boomers,” or patients born between 1945 and 1965. Current data suggest that the baby boomer generation accounts for 75% of people infected with hepatitis C, but 1.25 to 1.75 million of them are unaware that they are infected. “Hepatitis C screening has long been considered impractical for EDs, but advances in rapid testing technology, the development of new therapies, and improvements in reimbursement for selective screening has created new opportunities to implement these screenings in the ED setting,” says Douglas A.E. White, MD. Despite these advances, clinical experience with hepatitis C virus screening in EDs is limited.   Testing a New Program Recently, Dr. White and colleagues at Alameda Health System implemented an ED-based screening program for both HIV and hepatitis C into the triage process according to recommendations from the CDC and United States Preventive Services Task Force. As an adjunct to screening, physicians could order HIV and hepatitis C testing when clinically indicated. For a study published in Annals of Emergency Medicine, the research team reported results of the hepatitis C portion of this screening program. The primary objective was to determine the prevalence of hepatitis C...