The Journal of the American Osteopathic Association study finds few community health center patients born between 1945 and 1965 were tested for the silent killer
CHICAGO—January 4, 2015— Researchers found that only 8.3 percent of the 60,722 eligible patients at 14 community health centers were screened for hepatitis C virus (HCV) according to 2013 guidelines that call for testing all patients born between 1945 and 1965, regardless of their risk profile.
The study, published today in The Journal of the American Osteopathic Association, points to the crucial role community health centers play in public health, serving more than 22 million patients from the nation’s most vulnerable populations. An estimated 17,000 annual new cases of HCV infection are unreported. Identifying and treating those patients early improves outcomes and helps contain transmission.
The data found that women were less likely to be screened than men in every race/ethnic group, with black Hispanics, white non-Hispanics and black non-Hispanics having the highest probability of being screened.
“HCV screening can reduce health inequities due to undiagnosed, untreated infection,” said researcher Erica Turse, DO, MPH, of the University of Mississippi Medical Center. “Diagnosing this disease is a public health imperative and, as an osteopathic physician, I know that swift intervention is the best shot these patients have to avoid cirrhosis, carcinoma and end-stage liver disease.”
Researchers from Nova Southeastern University College of Osteopathic Medicine, the University of Mississippi Medical Center and two Florida clinics conducted the large-scale electronic health record review to hone in screening gaps among eligible patients under the birth year criteria. Earlier guidelines took a risk-based approach to screening.
More than 2.7 million people in the U.S. currently have chronic HCV infection. Often called a “silent epidemic,” HCV infection is frequently unnoticed because people with the disease have no obvious symptoms.
The authors analyzed a de-identified dataset obtained through electronic health records from a large national network of community health centers with locations in Florida, Utah, California, Kansas and New Mexico.
Patients were considered eligible for screening if they had a patient office visit between January 1, 2013 and December 31, 2013 and were not known to have an existing HCV diagnosis. The authors noted that there was limited awareness of the birth cohort screening guidelines, which were issued in 2013, and recommend that the change in screening practices should be further assessed.
About The Journal of the American Osteopathic Association
The Journal of the American Osteopathic Association (JAOA) is the official scientific publication of the American Osteopathic Association. Edited by Robert Orenstein, DO, it is the premier scholarly peer-reviewed publication of the osteopathic medical profession. The JAOA’s mission is to advance medicine through the publication of peer-reviewed osteopathic research.