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Telemedicine Specialty Support Promotes Hepatitis C Treatment by Primary Care Providers in the Department of Veterans Affairs.
Beste LA, Glorioso TJ, Ho PM, Au DH, Kirsh SR, Todd-Stenberg J, Chang MF, Dominitz JA, Barón AE, Ross D. Telemedicine Specialty Support Promotes Hepatitis C Treatment by Primary Care Providers in the Department of Veterans Affairs. The American journal of medicine. 2017 Apr 1; 130(4):432-438.e3.
The Department of Veterans Affairs is the largest US provider of hepatitis C treatment. Although antiviral regimens are becoming simpler, hepatitis C antivirals are not typically prescribed by primary care providers. The Veterans Affairs Extension for Community Health Outcomes (VA-ECHO) program was launched to promote primary care-based hepatitis C treatment using videoconferencing-based specialist support. We aimed to assess whether primary care provider participation in VA-ECHO was associated with hepatitis C treatment and sustained virologic response.
We identified 4173 primary care providers (n = 152 sites) responsible for 38,753 patients with chronic hepatitis C infection. A total of 6431 patients had a primary care provider participating in VA-ECHO; 32,322 patients had an unexposed primary care provider. Exposure was modeled as a patient-level time-varying covariate. Patients became exposed after primary care provider participation in 1 VA-ECHO session. Multivariable Cox proportional hazards frailty modeling assessed the association between VA-ECHO exposure and hepatitis C treatment. Among treated patients, modified Poisson regression assessed the relationship between exposure and sustained virologic response.
After adjustment, exposed patients received significantly higher rates of antiviral treatment compared with unexposed patients (adjusted hazard ratio, 1.20; 95% confidence interval, 1.10-1.32; P < .01). The rate of primary care provider-initiated antiviral medication was 21.4% among treated patients reviewed on VA-ECHO teleconferences compared with 2.5% among unexposed patients (P < .01). No difference in adjusted rates of sustained virologic response was observed for patients with exposed primary care providers (P = .32), with similar crude rates for primary care providers versus specialists.
National implementation of VA-ECHO was positively associated with hepatitis C treatment initiation by primary care providers, without differences in sustained virologic response.