Two professional medical societies have recently launched initiatives to support a wider variety of health care providers in adapting to new roles and opportunities resulting from the rapidly evolving arena of hepatitis C (HCV) screening, diagnosis, and treatment. As the Viral Hepatitis Action Plan observes, providers at every level in the healthcare system can play a critical role in meeting the needs of the millions of people at risk for and/or living with viral hepatitis. These new initiatives support internal medicine physicians and other primary care providers, as well as hepatologists, gastroenterologists, infectious disease specialists, and HIV specialists.
Making important contributions to advancing the Viral Hepatitis Action Plan, these new initiatives leverage the expertise and reach of both of their parent organizations to equip a greater number and variety of providers to skillfully provide the latest viral hepatitis prevention, care, and treatment services.
AJM Launches Hepatitis C Resource Center
In November, the American Journal of Medicine (AJM) , the official journal of the Alliance for Academic Internal Medicine, announced the launch of an original, comprehensive, online Hepatitis C Resource Center dedicated to providing both primary care providers and specialists with the latest information on the screening, diagnosis, treatment and management of HCV.
The results of a 2014 survey of primary care physicians (PCPs) who had screened and/or cared for HCV patients within the last six months commissioned by AJM revealed that 60 percent of the respondents were “not very confident” or only “somewhat confident” when screening patients for chronic HCV infection, according to an October article in the AJM by Edward Lebovics, MD, FACP, AGAF, FACG, FAASLD, Division of Gastroenterology and Hepatobiliary Diseases at New York Medical College. The survey also found that PCPs have misconceptions about who to screen, the risk of progression of liver disease, and available therapies.
“The mandate for population-based screening and the lack of confidence of PCPs to screen highlights an opportunity that can be addressed in our healthcare system by appropriate education,” Dr. Lebovics, guest editor of the Resource Center, said in a news release announcing the launch of the online resource center.
According to a news release announcing the launch of the online resource center, AJM was encouraged to establish the Resource Center based on the current initiatives focusing on HCV screening and diagnosis, along with the advent of oral, interferon (IFN)-free treatment regimens.
The AJM Hepatitis C Resource Center offers content to meet the needs of two audiences:
- Internal medicine physicians and other PCPs.
- Specialists including hepatologists, gastroenterologists, and infectious disease specialists.
“There is a progressive increase in HCV-associated morbidity and mortality in the U.S. that needs to be addressed now. It is anticipated that PCPs and community practices will become increasingly responsible for the screening, diagnosis, treatment, and management of infected patients, as well as for providing access to care by specialists when needed,” said Joseph Alpert, MD, AJM’s Editor-in-Chief. “The educational programs, articles, and guidelines contained in this Resource Center are readily available to provide increasingly invaluable HCV disease-state and clinical knowledge to all healthcare providers in hospital- and community-based settings.”
AAHIVM Launches Hepatitis C Institute for HIV Specialists
The American Academy for HIV Medicine (AAHIVM) recently launched its Institute for Hepatitis C to advance HCV care through education, professional development, and advocacy. According to an announcement from AAHIVM, they created the Institute to help advance knowledge of HIV/HCV co-infection care through educational initiatives, prevention, and testing information, relevant research and policy activities. Dr. Margaret Hoffman-Terry, Vice Chair of the AAHIVM Board of Directors, serves as Director of the Institute.
According to the announcement, a recent survey of AAHIVM members working in Ryan White clinics, community health centers, private practices, and academic and/or hospital settings confirmed that “HIV practitioners are caring for significant numbers of patients with HCV” and that “approximately one in four patients currently being seen by an AAHIVM member or credentialed HIV Specialist is infected with hepatitis C (with or without HIV co-infection).” While a significant majority (81 percent) of the survey respondents indicated they felt they possessed the clinical knowledge and education necessary to expertly treat HCV infection, 92 percent “expressed a desire for even more professional support in this area.”
“It is clear that HIV providers are more engaged in HCV care than ever before,” stated James M. Friedman, Executive Director of AAHIVM, in the academy’s news release . “We are excited to offer our members a new, more complete focus on HCV through the new Institute, and more opportunities to increase their professional development and engagements on this important issue.”
AAHIVM’s Institute for Hepatitis C shares information via the organization’s website , including current information on HCV prevention, testing, and treatment protocols as well as announcements about FDA treatment approvals and new HCV research findings. The Institute will also produce a monthly e-newsletter, The HIV/HCV ReSource. Co-edited by AAHIVM members Margaret Hoffman-Terry, MD, FACP, AAHIVS of Lehigh Valley Hospital and Mark Sulkowski, MD, from Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, the bi-monthly newsletter provides a synthesis of the recent clinical studies in co-infection to inform providers’ practice.