Several simple, inexpensive operational interventions substantially improve care for viral hepatitis, according to a report published in the Lancet.

Recent advances in treatment for chronic hepatitis B and chronic hepatitis C have the potential to halt or even reverse the progression of associated liver disease and to reduce related mortality, reported Kali Zhou, MD, of the division of gastroenterology, University of California, San Francisco, and her associates. But they can do so only if affected individuals are engaged and retained in the relatively long continuum of care, from diagnosis through viral suppression or cure.

To assess the usefulness of interventions that promote such patient engagement and retention, Dr. Zhou and her colleagues reviewed the scientific literature and performed a meta-analysis of 56 studies. They examined 15 studies on HBV care, 38 on HCV care, and 3 on both types of hepatitis (Lancet Infect Dis. 2016 Sep 5. doi: 10.1016/S1473-3099[16]30208-0 ).

Among their findings:

• Educating a single lay health worker to improve knowledge about the disease in his or her community and to promote diagnostic testing nearly tripled the testing rate (relative risk, 2.68), compared with no such intervention.

• Clinician reminders during regular office visits to consider hepatitis testing – such as prompts in the patients’ electronic medical records or stickers on their charts – nearly quadrupled the testing rate (RR, 3.70), compared with no clinician reminders.

• Providing guided referral to a hepatitis specialist for people at risk for the disorder markedly improved the rate of visits to such specialists (RR, 1.57), compared with no such referrals.

• Providing psychological counseling and motivational therapy for mental health and/or substance misuse problems along with medical care for hepatitis dramatically increased the number of patients treated (OR, 3.42) and raised the rate of treatment completion (RR, 1.14).

• Combining mental health, substance misuse, and hepatitis treatment services at one location increased the rate of treatment initiation (RR, 1.36), treatment adherence (RR, 1.22), and cure as measured by sustained virologic response rate (RR, 1.21), compared with usual care.

These interventions might be useful in augmenting hepatitis treatment programs worldwide, Dr. Zhou and her associates said.

The World Health Organization and the U.S. Fulbright Program supported the study. Dr. Zhou and her associates reported having no relevant financial disclosures.