The impact of a managed care network on attendance, follow-up and treatment at a hepatitis C specialist centre


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Abstract

SUMMARY.Infection with the hepatitis C virus commonly occurs in patient groups who have difficulty accessing conventional medical care, reducing their chance of successful antiviral therapy. Managed care networks (MCNs) have been suggested as a mechanism of improving access to care; however, there is little evidence to support their use in patients with hepatitis C. The aim of this study was to evaluate the impact of a MCN for patients with hepatitis C. This was a retrospective cohort study of all individuals in our area who had received a positive hepatitis C antibody test between August 1994 and June 2008. The MCN introduced a new referral pathway, which included nonmedical referrals and outreach nurse-led clinics. These interventions were introduced in 2004 and evaluated in 2008. After the introduction of the MCN, the proportion of individuals who accessed care increased from 61% (280/430) to 82.4% (721/875). There was an increase in nonmedical referrals with 81 (18.3%) being directly referred from Drug Problem Services and 75 (17%) from the Prison Service. The changes to referral did not have a negative impact on treatment outcomes as the number who completed treatment increased from 66.1% (43/65) to 73.7% (98/133) and the sustained virological response increased from 50.7% (33/65) to 60.9% (81/133). This study provides evidence that the collaboration of health care professionals within a network can have a radical effect in improving access to care in a traditionally hard to reach population. This has been achieved with little additional resource, but rather working smarter with existing staff.

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