Clinicians are being urged to consider referring hepatitis B patients to primary care providers for care, when clinically appropriate as new data reveals Australia is lagging behind its treatment targets for people living with chronic hepatitis B.
The Viral Hepatitis Mapping Project: Hepatitis B published by the WHO Collaborating Centre for Viral Hepatitis Epidemiology, The Doherty Institute and ASHM shows that treatment uptake for chronic hepatitis B in 2021 was 12.7%, below the National Hepatitis B Strategy target of 20% by 2022.
Similarly, the number of people engaged in care (either treatment or viral load test monitoring) in 2021 was 26%, just over half the 50% by 2022 target.
ASHM CEO Alexis Apostolellis said the findings demonstrate the importance of considering all pathways to treatment for people living with hepatitis B.
“Despite the fact that a lot of people being treated for hepatitis B can be managed exclusively in primary care, only about 10% are,” said Apostolellis.
“Not only are community s100 prescribers an underutilised resource for hepatitis B care, we also know patients in primary care typically receive faster treatment, are less prone to disconnect from health services and are more likely to adhere to treatment regimes,” said Apostolellis.
To coincide with the release of the research, ASHM has published a suite of resources to support clinicians at the time of diagnosis to refer patients on to community s100 prescribers.
The resources, launched as part of the ‘Hep B care. It’s primary care, too.’ campaign provide guidance for diagnosing clinicians, including a map to find local primary care prescribers of specialised hepatitis B medicine, as well as practical clinical communications tools to support the referral.
With the research revealing the highest prevalence of chronic hepatitis B is in remote and very remote communities, Dr Jill Benson, a hepatitis B s100 community prescribing doctor working in remote communities in WA, said treating hepatitis B in primary care is a practical way to improve access for patients.
“Many people with hepatitis B have challenges accessing tertiary care, sometimes due to geography, but also due to cultural and social barriers,” she said.
“These are people we know well as primary care practitioners. They trust us, we ensure continuity of care, and we are usually easier for them to access,” said Dr Benson.
“Caring for someone in their own community means they do not have to travel, can have local support and ask all the ‘silly questions’ they don’t feel comfortable asking an unknown doctor,” she said.
Understanding the available referral pathways is one of the best ways clinicians can support patients with hepatitis B. Access the resources now to ensure you give your patients the best possible care at https://www.ashm.org.au/b-referred-campaign/.