PCPs report lack of confidence in HCV screening

Posted on March 31, 2015

60% of primary care physicians report a lack of confidence in screening for hepatitis C

A survey of Primary Care Physicians (PCPs) actively involved in the care of patients with Hepatitis C (HCV) reveals that up to 60% of PCPs are either not very confident or only somewhat confident about screening individuals for chronic HCV infection. This survey, highlighted by Dr. Edward Lebovics in his article published in the November 2014 issue of The American Journal of Medicine (AJM), was commissioned by AJM and Elsevier Multimedia Publishing and conducted by Metrics for Learning, Ltd. Dr Lebovics, Director of the Sarah C. Upham Division of Gastroenterology & Hepatobiliary Diseases at New York Medical College in Valhalla, New York, also reveals that PCPs have little confidence in initiating standard or the newly approved HCV treatments in uncomplicated patients newly diagnosed with chronic hepatitis C infection.

These survey findings highlight the immediate need for primary care providers to receive comprehensive education about whom to screen for HCV, the consequences of chronic infection, and newly-available therapies that offer patients a much greater chance of becoming free of infection than has been previously possible. Unfortunately, Dr. Lebovics emphasizes that there is a current lack of educational resources to provide healthcare practitioners with the latest information on the screening, diagnosis, treatment, and management of HCV.

It is estimated that 4.1 million persons in the United States are infected with HCV and the consequences of chronic infection, including liver failure and hepatocellular carcinoma, are on the rise. To date, only 25% of infected patients have been diagnosed and only 5% cured. AJM Editor-in-Chief Joseph Alpert, MD, states: “In the US, we are currently seeing a progressive increase in HCV-associated morbidity and mortality, which needs to be addressed now. Primary care providers and community practices are anticipated to become increasingly responsible for the screening, diagnosis, treatment, and management of infected patients, as well as providing access to care by specialists when needed.” Both the Centers for Disease Control and the US Prevention Task Force recommend that a hepatitis C screening test be offered to every individual born between 1945 and 1965 receiving inpatient hospital care or primary care. This recommendation is now mandated in several states including New York, Colorado, Connecticut, and Massachusetts. When asked to comment, Dr. Lebovics stated “The mandate for population-based screening and the lack of confidence of PCPs to screen highlights a weakness in our healthcare system that needs to be addressed by appropriate education”.

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