Hepatitis C Virus Reflex Testing Protocol in an Emergency Department

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West J Emerg Med


INTRODUCTION: Our aim was to measure hepatitis C virus (HCV) screening and linkage-to-care rates in an urban emergency department (ED) before and after implementing an HCV viral RNA (vRNA) reflex testing protocol within a HCV screening program for at-risk patients. Our hypothesis was that using a reflex testing protocol would increase HCV testing rates of at-risk patients in the ED, which would increase the linkage-to-care rate.

METHODS: In August 2018, our institution implemented an automated, electronic health record-based HCV screening protocol in the ED for at-risk patients. In January 2019, we implemented an HCV vRNA reflex testing protocol (reflex testing) for all positive HCV antibody (Ab) tests that were initiated through the screening protocol. We compared completion rates of HCV vRNA testing and the rate of linkage to care for patients with positive HCV Ab test results before and after implementation of reflex testing (five months per study period).

RESULTS: Prior to reflex testing implementation, 233/425 (55%) patients with a positive HCV Ab test had an HCV vRNA test performed, whereas 270/323 (84%) patients with a positive HCV Ab test result had vRNA testing after reflex testing implementation (odds ratio [OR], 4.2; 95% confidence interval (CI): 3.0-6.0; P < 0.001). Of the eligible patients with positive HCV Ab test results who could be linked to care, 45 (10.6%) were linked to care before HCV reflex implementation and 46 (14.2%) were linked to care with reflex testing (OR, 1.4; 95% CI: 0.9-2.2; P = 0.13).

CONCLUSION: Implementing a reflex testing initiative into an HCV screening program in the ED can result in an increase of the percentage of patients who receive an HCV vRNA test after having had a positive HCV Ab. Hepatitis C virus vRNA reflex testing was not associated with a statistically significant increase in linkage-to-care rates for HCV Ab-positive patients; however, further studies are required.

Medical Subject Headings

Emergency Service, Hospital; Hepacivirus; Hepatitis C; Hepatitis C Antibodies; Humans; Reflex

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