30 November 2023

Despite being a curable condition, hepatitis C remains one of the leading causes of liver cancer in Australia.

To meet the World Health Organization’s hepatitis C virus (HCV) elimination targets by 2030, we need to increase screening and diagnosis, upskill the workforce, and implement innovative models of care.

Reaching people in rural and remote locations remains a key challenge in the HCV response.

The NSW Hepatitis C Remote Prescribing Program aims to address this.

The program utilises a nurse-led and patient-centred model of care.

Nurses perform the initial hepatitis C assessment and patient work-up then refer to prescribers who review the information and initiate direct acting antiviral (DAA) therapy.

Several resources have been developed and/or tailored to facilitate the efficient exchange of clinical information and virtual prescribing. 

Only patients who meet the Remote Consultation Criteria can be included in the program (ie patients must be non-cirrhotic or have compensated cirrhosis and have no significant co-morbidities).

The NSW Hepatitis C Remote Prescribing program was established in November 2020 to facilitate linkages between nurses and prescribers to increase access to treatment in regional areas.

Funded by NSW Health and coordinated by ASHM, the program has since been extended to other settings where treatment may otherwise be limited, including mental health services, alcohol and other drugs services, Aboriginal Medical Services and homelessness settings.   

During the past three years, the program’s model of care has demonstrated highly successful outcomes, enabling more than 210 patients to be initiated onto treatment.

While all medical practitioners and authorised nurse practitioners can prescribe direct acting antiviral (DAA) therapy for the treatment of hepatitis C, the program can expedite and facilitate increased access to treatment in patients’ preferred settings.

Nurses participating in the program provide flexible, patient-centred, on-treatment support, harm minimisation education and individualised follow-up to help these patients through treatment and achieve hepatitis C cure.

For more information about the program, visit the program webpage at www.ashm.org.au/hcv/nsw-hepatitis-c-remote-prescribing-program or email NSWLinkages@ashm.org.au if you are interested in joining the program as a prescriber or referrer.

For more information about hepatitis C, see www.ashm.org.au/resources and the Reach-C website at www./reach-c.ashm.org.au which provides an online form for practitioners who are not already experienced in hepatitis C treatment to gain specialist approval within 24 hours to initiate DAA therapy.

ASHM also provides free online training and on-demand learning in HIV, viral hepatitis, and sexual health medicine.

For more details, go to www.ashm.org.au/learning-hub.