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Using telehealth to improve access to hepatitis C treatment in the direct-acting antiviral therapy era.

  • Schulz, Thomas R1, 2
  • Kanhutu, Kudzai1, 2, 3
  • Sasadeusz, Joseph1
  • Watkinson, Sally1
  • Biggs, Beverley-Ann1, 2
  • 1 1 Victorian Infectious Diseases Service, The Royal Melbourne Hospital, at The Doherty Institute, Melbourne Australia. , (Australia)
  • 2 2 University of Melbourne, Department of Medicine/RMH, at The Doherty Institute, Melbourne, Australia. , (Australia)
  • 3 3 Health Informatics Society, Melbourne, Australia. , (Australia)
Published Article
Journal of Telemedicine and Telecare
SAGE Publications
Publication Date
Oct 18, 2018
DOI: 10.1177/1357633X18806651
PMID: 30336724


Introduction One-third of the Australian population lives outside major cities and this group has worse health outcomes. Telehealth is becoming an accepted way to improve patient access to specialist healthcare. Over 200,000 Australian's have hepatitis C virus (HCV) and new treatments are very effective and well tolerated. We aim to demonstrate that HCV treatment utilising telehealth support for care delivery has cure rates similar to onsite care in clinical trials. We also report length of consultation and calculate reductions in travel and carbon output. Methods Patient demographic, clinical, and treatment outcome data were collected prospectively from hospital software and analysed retrospectively. This was an audit of all patients treated for HCV in one year from a single tertiary hospital that included telehealth in their care delivery. Results Sustained virological response was achieved in 51/52 (98%) patients with completed treatment courses, and 51/58 (88%) of those who had a planned telehealth consultation as part of their management. A median of 634 km of patient travel was saved per telehealth consultation. Discussion We found that a telehealth-supported outreach programme for patients in regional Australia with HCV produced similar outcomes to clinical trials. There was a considerable saving in time and cost for the patients and significant environmental benefit through the reduction in carbon footprint associated with travel to distant specialist health services. We conclude that telehealth facilitated outreach is a feasible and effective way to access HCV treatment and cure in regional Australia.

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