Program aims to ‘scale up’ hepatitis C testing

Morgan Liotta

24/03/2023 3:56:25 PM

GPs are being encouraged to sign up for Beyond the C, which is hoping to move Australia closer to eliminating the virus by 2030.

Person having blood test
In one Perth clinic, 400 patients with hepatitis C were identified through the ‘Beyond the C’ program.

The Australasian Society for HIV, Viral Hepatitis and Sexual Health Medicine (ASHM) is seeking GP involvement in a new national program aimed at increasing testing and treatment for hepatitis C, with incentives of $1500 available for participating practices.
More than 120,000 Australians are living with the virus, but while expanded access to direct-acting antivirals (DAAs) has helped efforts to eliminate hepatitis C, testing has dropped in recent years and ASHM estimates that around 50,000 people have not yet accessed support or treatment. 
In a bid to address this, the society recently launched Beyond the C as part of Hepatitis Australia’s 50,000 Project, which is designed to boost testing and treatment by arming primary care providers with important ‘case-finding tools’ and identify people who may have fallen through the cracks.
The program has been established in the wake of a successful pilot that ran nationally across select general practices in 2021.
One of those clinics was Quinns Mindarie Super Clinic Clinical in outer-Perth, which was able to diagnose 47 additional patients with hepatitis C during the pilot.
‘Identifying and treating patients for a disease is a rewarding population health activity,’ practice manager Heather Drummond said.
‘It has also been rewarding to upskill our clinical team around the management of hepatitis C and to see how this has been embedded in our practice.
‘We just need more people to get tested, especially those at risk of having hepatitis C … and make the testing and screening process … easier.’
Elsewhere in Perth, Aboriginal Medical Service Derbarl Yerrigan Health reported that the program’s case-finding support enabled the practice to identify 400 patients with hepatitis C.
‘[It] provided a structured, supportive auditing process to focus on treating hepatitis C,’ one of the practice’s GPs, Dr Lakhbinder Kang, said.
‘As of February 2023, our treatment rate is 83%.’
According to ASHM, practices participating in Beyond the C can upskill in case-finding, improve capacity for continuous quality improvement, streamline their data extraction processes, and build on clinical audit capabilities while having ongoing access to a suite of resources.
ASHM CEO Alexis Apostolellis says there are many benefits to collaborating with general practice, and that enabling patients to see their GP rather than another specialist helps to foster optimal patient care.
‘We know that general practice staff are at the frontline in helping identify those in the community with hepatitis C,’ he said.
‘This program is helping doctors and practices scale up their existing systems to identify patients and screen at-risk groups … it assists general practice staff with alternative search criteria for data extraction to identify patients with active hepatitis C and also provides ongoing education and resources to manage hepatitis C cases.
‘The expansion of this program is also an important step in helping general practice identify and manage other chronic diseases and conditions through broader application of the case finding and auditing techniques this program applies.’
Beyond the C’s auditing and educational activities contribute to RACGP CPD Program requirements, while practices that complete the program can access $1500 in funding support.
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