Hep-C Cures Project Sees Success
In October 2018, SWACH received funding through the CDC and Washington State Department of Health to implement an innovative program to support patients in completing Hepatitis- C treatment and getting cured. The project called Hep-C Cures, a partnership between SWACH, SeaMar, and CVAB, puts peer providers in the medical clinic to connect with patients and enroll them in a peer-support program. This aims to improve patient care and increase the number of patients who follow through with treatment and take the test to verify they are cured (the “test of cure”).
The data prior to the beginning of this project showed a dire trend – less than 20% who started treatment stayed with it all the way through the end and took the test of cure – in other words over 80% of people were lost to care before the last step.
Navigating health care systems and following a medication routine is challenging under the best of circumstances. However, the Hep-C physician champion observed increasing numbers of people who started treatment had multiple barriers impacting their ability to seek and follow treatment, including opioid and other substance use disorder, mental health challenges, a range of social determinants, or all of the above. We believe this is why the numbers for follow through were so low. By supporting the patient with a peer – someone with lived experience who is able to build trust while helping them navigate through the treatment schedule, we have seen a significant increase in patients who get the test of cure. Since the start of the program, nearly 70% of patients receiving peer support have completed treatment including the test of cure.
Additionally, many of those who have not yet come in for the test are still engaged with the peer and expected to come in. In fact, over 90% of patients who agreed to work with the peer during their initial visit are still in contact with her – regardless of whether they were ready to start treatment or not.
In one particularly touching success story, one patient felt safe to share with the peer some of the other challenges he was facing that he did not feel comfortable telling his doctor. He was actively using opioids and was living in a tent. The Hep-C Peer was able to support him through the Hep-C treatment, connect him to a Medicated Assisted Treatment (MAT) program for his opioid addiction, and help him address his housing needs as well. So beyond the raw data, there is a clear evidence that peer support has a direct impact on quality of life.
SWACH is excited by the work CVAB and SeaMar have done during this project. As more organizations step up to answer Governor Inslee’s directive to eliminate Hep-C in Washington State by 2030, we hope they will see the value of peer support and adapt this model.