1Disease Elimination Program, Burnet Institute, Melbourne 3004, Australia.
2Centre for Innovation in Infectious Disease and Immunology Research (CIIDIR), Deakin University, Geelong 3220, Australia.
3Barwon South West Public Health Unit, Barwon Health, Geelong 3220, Australia.
4Department of Gastroenterology, Alfred Health and Monash University, Melbourne 3004, Australia.
5Department of Infectious Disease, Alfred Health and Monash University, Melbourne 3004, Australia.
Hospital admissions are a missed opportunity to engage people living with hepatitis C virus (HCV) into care. This study aimed to describe the proportion of hospital inpatients and emergency department (ED) patients identified with hepatitis C who were subsequently linked to care and treatment at a metropolitan health service in Melbourne, Australia. Data were collected retrospectively from hospital databases (admissions, notifiable diseases, and pharmacy) for all adults admitted or attending the ED with separation coding indicating hepatitis C infection from March 2016 to March 2019. There were 2149 patients with at least one separation with hepatitis C coding. 15.4% (331/2149) had a documented antibody test, 4.6% (99/2149) had a documented RNA test, and 8.3% (179/2149) had a DAA prescription dispensed by hospital pharmacy. Antibody positivity was 95.2% (315/331) and RNA (when completed) was detected in 37.4% (37/99). Hepatitis specialist units had the highest rate of hepatitis C coded separations and RNA testing (39/88; 44.3%), mental health had the highest rate of antibody testing (70/276; 25.4%). Emergency had the lowest rate of antibody testing (101/1075; 13.7%) and the third highest rate of RNA testing (32/94; 34.1%), but the highest rate of RNA detected (15/32; 46.9%). This study highlights key steps to improve the care cascade. Simplified diagnostic pathways, expansion of hepatitis C care services, and clear in-hospital pathways to link patients to care would be beneficial in this setting. To scale up hepatitis C testing and treatment as part of national elimination strategies, hospital systems need to target interventions to their local data.