The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has launched a new pilot program that leverages health IT and telemedicine to combat the growing problem of hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection in the United States.

Called Project ECHO, CDC has funded weekly videoconferencing programs in Arizona and Utah to boost primary care capacity for treatment of HCV in areas of the country that have a shortage of specialists. To date, 66 primary care clinicians, predominantly from rural settings, have received training through the program and 46 percent of patients have received antiviral treatment.

In concert with the pilot program, the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT--working with the American Medical Association--is creating new HCV clinical quality measures and clinical decision support tools to improve screening and referral for treatment. The project is identifying CQMs for testing, linking them to care, validating the measures, and developing corresponding CDS tools to provide up-to-date guidelines and other information to members of the care team.

“With support from CDC, communities are being encouraged to form coalitions of primary care, academic centers, and public health officials to implement a package of interventions to expand access to HCV testing and treatment,” writes John W. Ward, M.D., director of CDC’s Division of Viral Hepatitis, and Amy Helwig, M.D., ONC Medical Officer, in a June 18 blog. “Guided by the experiences from these two projects, the interventions will include models of care, performance measures, and clinical decision support tools.”

These programs also will link to public health and clinical care data systems to track implementation of these interventions and the number of persons tested and cured of HCV. The goal is to test and cure 10,000 individuals with hepatitis C, and disseminate lessons learned to help other clinicians fight the HCV epidemic that afflicts about three million Americans.

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