Michael Horberg, MD, Highlights Hepatitis C Screening Program

marc klau
Michael Horberg, MD

In September 2016, Michael Horberg, MD, executive director of the Mid-Atlantic Permanente Research Institute, represented Kaiser Permanente at an invitation-only meeting convened by Acting Assistant Secretary of Health Karen DeSalvo, MD, to discuss the evidence for early hepatitis C treatment in the United States.

Dr. Horberg discussed a comprehensive hepatitis C virus screening model that was launched in late 2014 in the Mid-Atlantic region designed to improve detection and treatment of the virus. Horberg believes this model could help detect the disease among the 1.5 million Americans who do not know that they are infected with hepatitis C. This work is described in a May 2016 blog post written by Dr. Horberg published in Morning Consult and published in Clinical Infectious Disease in April 2016.

“Chronic hepatitis C is a slowly progressing disease that is relatively asymptomatic until severe liver disease develops, which is why it is important to identify patients who may be at risk so we can coordinate timely treatment,” Dr. Horberg wrote. “Our study shows the value of a comprehensive program to assist hepatitis C patients through each step of the care process, from screening to detection and monitoring.”

The model applies many of Kaiser Permanente’s integrated health care features to the detection of the disease, including an automated alert in a patient’s electronic health record, support from a care coordinator when the disease is diagnosed, and other help gaining access to the appropriate lab and diagnostic tests.

Dr. Horberg also stressed the importance of focusing on screening at a time when much attention around hepatitis C is on the high cost of treatment.

“While the cost of treating hepatitis C is no doubt an important issue, we also need to pay attention to and champion screening advances that will help us do a better job of diagnosing and stopping the spread of this deadly virus,” he wrote.