Patients Support Universal Screening for Hepatitis C

In the United States, up to 70 percent of 2.9 million to 3.7 million people with hepatitis C (HCV) are unaware of their infection. Although universal screening might be a cost-effective way to identify infections, prevent morbidity, and reduce transmission, few efforts have been made to determine patient opinions about new approaches to screening.

Phillip O Coffin, of the Division of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the University of Washington in Seattle, and colleagues, surveyed 200 patients in August 2010 at five outpatient clinics of a major public urban medical center in Seattle, with an 85.8 percent response rate.

The sample was 55.3 percent women, median 47 years of age, 56.3 percent white and 32.7 percent African or African-American; 9.5 percent and 2.5 percent reported testing positive for HCV and HIV, respectively. The vast majority of patients supported universal screening for HCV. When presented with three options for screening, 48 percent preferred universal testing without being informed that they were being tested or provided with negative results, 37 percent preferred testing with the chance to "opt-out" of being tested and without being provided with negative results, and 15 percent preferred testing based on clinician judgment. Results were similar for HIV screening.

The researchers concluded that atients support universal screening for HCV, even if that screening involves testing without prior consent or the routine provision of negative test results. They add that current screening guidelines and procedures should be reconsidered in light of patient priorities. Their research was published in BMC Infectious Diseases.

Reference: Coffin PO, Stevens AM, ScottJD, Stekler JD and Golden MR. Patient acceptance of universal screening for hepatitis C virus infection. BMC Infectious Diseases 2011, 11:160doi:10.1186/1471-2334-11-160