Update: Telehealth for hepatitis C treatment

In early 2021 the DruGS team began a Commonwealth-funded study Understanding experiences of telehealth care delivery for hepatitis C treatment in Australia.

Telehealth has been successful in the treatment of hepatitis C by improving patient access to healthcare, especially for those living in regional or remote areas. Since the advent of COVID-19, its broader utility in facilitating access to essential primary health services has become clear, with people able to access healthcare in their own homes. However, the usefulness of telehealth for treatment and care for hepatitis C is still not well understood.

To consolidate the opportunities of telehealth that have been enabled during COVID-19, this project aims to better understand the barriers to accessing and using telehealth for people living with hepatitis C. This may include issues related to care engagement and retention, and the support needs of health professionals using telehealth for hepatitis C care delivery.

We have now begun a targeted period of interviewing in Victoria, New South Wales, Western Australia and Queensland.

Project research officer Dr Frances Shaw is planning to conduct interviews with:

  • People who have accessed telehealth for hepatitis C care and treatment during COVID-19, and
  • Healthcare professionals with experience of providing treatment through telehealth during COVID-19.

Participation involves a confidential 1 hour interview over the phone or on zoom and participants are reimbursed $50 for their time.

This qualitative study will be the first of its kind in Australia to investigate experiences of telehealth for consumers living with hepatitis C and healthcare providers.

As project chief investigator Professor Suzanne Fraser explains,

While we know that telehealth can be useful for improving healthcare access for people who live regionally, we know little about how telehealth platforms shape healthcare encounters more generally. For instance, do people feel comfortable raising health concerns or issues? Are they given adequate health information and resources? Do previous experiences of stigma impact upon people’s willingness to use telehealth? Does telehealth reshape the consultation in unanticipated ways? Our job is to learn from people who use telehealth to understand their experiences and develop recommendations that will optimise telehealth care delivery in hepatitis C treatment.

To find out more about the project, or to participate in a confidential interview, email Dr Frances Shaw at f.shaw@latrobe.edu.au or call her on 0431 483 918.