Hepatitis C screening doubles when tests ordered ahead of time

Twice as many eligible patients got screened for hepatitis C when it was already ordered for them compared to those who had to request it, according to a new study by researchers at the Perelman School of Medicine. Additionally, the patients in the study—whose average age was 63—completed their screenings much more often when they were contacted via mail as opposed to electronic messaging. The study was published in BMJ.

hep c lab paperwork and sample vials next to a computer keyboard.

“We think that sending the lab order with outreach was so successful because it framed screening as the default,” says the study’s lead author, Shivan Mehta, the associate chief innovation officer at Penn Medicine. “However, this strategy was also successful because it reduced effort and the number of steps to screen by both the patient and clinician.”

More than 21,000 patients born between 1945 and 1965—due to the high instances of hepatitis C but low screening rates in this population—were enrolled in the study. In Pennsylvania, where the study took place, state law requires health systems to offer screening to patients in this demographic. So the researchers decided this was a good venue to see if they could improve upon and rigorously evaluate something they were doing anyway.

This story is by Frank Otto. Read more at Penn Medicine News.