- 1Integrated Health Services, Colorado Coalition for the Homeless, Denver, Colorado, Seattle University College of Nursing, Seattle, Washington.
Background: Hepatitis C virus (HCV) infections have increased significantly in the United States recently, having tripled by 2014. Seventy-five percent of those with HCV are aging baby boomers, which places increased pressure on the medical system to provide treatment. There are not enough specialists available to treat everyone infected with HCV.
Purpose: The aim of this research was to determine whether treatment of hepatitis C with new direct-acting antivirals in primary care settings resulted in equivalent cure rates when compared with those patients treated by specialists.
Methodology: A retrospective cohort design was used. Participants were those treated for hepatitis C in specialty care at large public hospitals by gastroenterologists and/or hepatologists and those treated in two primary care community health centers in Seattle. Multivariate logistic regression was used to determine differences of sustained virologic response between those treated in primary care and those treated in specialty care. Treatment failure and those lost to follow-up were combined into one category.
Results: Failure rates were only 4% in primary care and 1.1% in specialty care. After adjustment, patients treated in primary care were statistically significantly less likely to have failure/lost to follow-up than those treated in specialty care. Hepatitis C treatment can be successfully provided in primary care with equivalent treatment outcomes.
Implications for practice: Primary care advanced practice nurses are in a good position to identify and treat hepatitis C. In addition, as patients are typically more engaged with their primary care provider, follow-up rates may be better versus referring these patients to a specialty provider.