Treatment for hepatitis C has been revolutionised in recent years with the introduction of direct-acting antiretroviral (DAA) medications that have far fewer side effects and much higher success rates than past treatments. This is a new era where elimination seems possible, and Australia has committed to the World Health Organisation’s goal of elimination by 2030. However, as identified in Australia’s Fifth National Hepatitis C Strategy 2018-2022, widespread reforms in healthcare delivery are needed to improve access to these medications and treatment uptake if Australia’s elimination goal is to be met.
Telehealth has been successful in 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 elements of healthcare in their own homes. However, the usefulness of telehealth for treatment and care for hepatitis C is not well understood. To consolidate the opportunities of telehealth that have been enabled during COVID-19, and optimise the use of telehealth where it is effective and valuable, better understanding is needed of barriers to accessing it. These may include issues related to hepatitis C care engagement and retention, and the support needs of health professionals using telehealth for hepatitis C care delivery.
This qualitative study investigated experiences of telehealth for consumers living with hepatitis C and related healthcare providers. The study aimed to explore consumer and provider perspectives on telehealth during the COVID-19 pandemic and develop new knowledge on the potential role of telehealth in hepatitis C care delivery more broadly. The researchers conducted in-depth qualitative interviews with people living with hepatitis C and healthcare providers (e.g. nurse practitioners and GPs) to document experiences of telehealth and to identify impediments to the use of telehealth. This research has helped to develop recommendations to support the hepatitis C sector to optimise the use of telehealth where it is effective and valuable.
A final report for this project has been released and was launched via webinar:
2021: Telehealth for hepatitis C treatment: Report launch and findings from a national qualitative study. Thursday 11 November, online. Click here for more information about the launch.
The project team comprises:
- Professor Suzanne Fraser, Australian Research Centre in Sex, Health and Society, La Trobe University
- Dr Renae Fomiatti, Australian Research Centre in Sex, Health and Society, La Trobe University
- Dr Frances Shaw, Australian Research Centre in Sex, Health and Society, La Trobe University
- Andrew Whalley, Australian Research Centre in Sex, Health and Society, La Trobe University
Shaw, F., Fomiatti, R., Farrugia, A. & Fraser, A. (2022). Proper distance in the age of social distancing: Hepatitis C treatment, telehealth and questions of care and responsibility. Sociology of Health & Illness.
Shaw, F., Fomiatti, R., Fraser, S. & Whalley, A. (2021). Understanding experiences of telehealth care delivery for hepatitis C treatment in Australia: Findings and recommendations from a national qualitative study. Melbourne: The Australian Research Centre in Sex, Health and Society, La Trobe University.
The research was funded by a grant from the Australian Government Department of Health.