Identification and Linkage to Care of HCV-Infected Persons in Five Health Centers - Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 2012-2014
Linkage to care
Laboratory-based antibody test,Laboratory-based PCR/RNA (confirmatory) test
Approximately three million persons in the United States are infected with hepatitis C virus (HCV), a blood-borne pathogen that is an increasing cause of liver disease and mortality in the United States. Treatments for HCV are curative, of short duration, and have few associated side effects, increasing the importance of identifying HCV-infected persons. Many persons with HCV infection were infected decades ago, before implementation of prevention measures and most are unaware of their infection, regardless of when it occurred. Most newly diagnosed cases are associated with injection drug use. Persons born during 1945-1965 have a fivefold higher risk of HCV infection than other adults and the highest risk for HCV-related morbidity and mortality. CDC recommends testing for this group, for persons who inject drugs, and others at risk for HCV infection. From October 2012 through July 2014, the National Nursing Centers Consortium (NNCC) carried out a project to integrate routine HCV testing and linkage-to-care in five federally qualified health centers in Philadelphia, PA, that primarily serve homeless persons and public housing residents. During the project period, 4,514 patients across the five centers were tested for HCV. Of these, 595 (13.2%) were HCV-antibody positive and 550 (92.4%) had a confirmatory HCV-RNA test performed. Of those who had a confirmatory HCV-RNA test performed, 390 (70.9%) were identified as having current (i.e., chronic) HCV infection (overall prevalence = 8.6%). Of those currently infected with HCV, 90% were informed of their status, 78% were referred to an HCV care specialist, and 62% went to the referred specialist for care. Replicable system modifications that improved HCV testing and care included enhancements to electronic medical records (EMRs), simplification of HCV testing protocols, and addition of a linkage-to-care coordinator. Findings from this project highlight the need for innovative strategies for HCV testing, care, and treatment, as well as the important role of community health centers in expanding access for patient populations disproportionately affected by HCV infection.