EHR alert increases hepatitis C screening in elderly patients

The implementation of an electronic health record (EHR) alert system increased screenings for hepatitis C in geriatric patients, according to a study published in Hepatology.

Screening for hepatitis C can catch the disease early—giving patients a better chance at receiving effective treatment. Many baby boomers, however, remain unscreened. This study evaluated if an EHR alert for the hepatitis C virus (HCV) could increase screening rates in elderly patients.

The study implemented a EHR system informing primary care physicians to perform hepatitis screenings if patients were born between 1945 and 1965, lacked a prior hepatitis C infection and did not have prior hepatitis C testing.

Results of 52,660 elderly patients, 28 percent of which were screened, found screening rates increased from 7.6 percent before EHR alerts to 72 percent a year after implementation. Of the 53 newly diagnosed patients, 20 had begun treatment, 11 had advanced fibrosis or cirrhosis and nine had a long-term viral response.

“Implementation of an EHR–based prompt increased hepatitis C virus screening rates among baby boomers in primary care by five-fold due to efficiency in determining needs for hepatitis C virus screening and workflow design,” concluded first author Monica Konerman, MD, of the Ann Arbor-based University of Michigan, and colleagues. “Streamlined access to specialty care enabled patients with previously undiagnosed advanced disease to be cured. This intervention can be easily integrated into EHR systems to increase hepatitis C virus diagnosis and linkage to care.”