Late diagnosis of hepatitis C virus infection, 2014-2016: continuing missed intervention opportunities

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The American journal of managed care


OBJECTIVES: Chronic hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection is typically asymptomatic until severe liver disease occurs and even then can remain undiagnosed for some time; thus, screening and treatment of asymptomatic persons are needed to prevent poor outcomes. In a previous analysis of data from between 2006 and 2011, we found that 17% of newly diagnosed HCV infections in 4 large health systems were among persons with cirrhosis and/or end-stage liver disease, termed "late diagnosis." We sought to determine the proportion with late diagnosis during 2014-2016, after release of CDC baby boomer (1945-1965 birth cohort) testing guidelines in 2012.

STUDY DESIGN: The cohort was based on analysis of electronic health records and administrative data of about 2.7 million patients visiting the same healthcare systems during 2014-2016.

METHODS: Among persons with newly diagnosed chronic HCV infection during 2014-2016, we analyzed data collected up to January 1, 2017.

RESULTS: Among 2695 patients with newly diagnosed HCV infection, 576 (21.4%) had late diagnosis. Most were born between 1945 and 1965 (n = 1613 [59.9%]), and among these, 27.6% had late diagnosis. Patients with versus without late diagnosis had equally lengthy prediagnosis observation in the health systems (mean and median, 9.1 and 9.1 vs 8.3 and 7.8 years, respectively) but were more likely to have a postdiagnosis hospitalization (32.5% vs 12.5%; P <.001) with greater number of hospital days (358.8 vs 78.5 per 100 person-years; P <.001).

CONCLUSIONS: More than one-fifth of patients with newly diagnosed HCV infection during 2014-2016-and more than a quarter of those born between 1945 and 1965-had late diagnosis despite many years of in-system care, an increase of 5 percentage points since 2006-2011, after the interim initiation of age-based screening recommendations. Our data highlight missed opportunities for diagnosis and therapeutic intervention before the onset of severe liver disease, which is associated with high cost and diminished outcomes.

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