NEWS | January 10, 2019

Using telementoring to help eradicate hepatitis C in Northern California

UC Davis specialists are creating a community of hepatitis C champions

(SACRAMENTO)

UC Davis Health liver-disease specialists are stepping up efforts to eradicate the hepatitis C virus. Through a telementoring program called ECHO-plus, they are training primary care providers in rural and suburban Northern California to become champions who are fully prepared to provide the latest treatments for patients with hepatitis C in their communities.

telementoring
Specialists in the Division of Gasteroenterology and Hepatology are using telementoring to increase access to hepatitis C treatment.

The process links the specialists with local physicians via video conferencing to share information on direct-acting anti-viral medications for hepatitis C, online clinical support tools and opportunities for ongoing telephone consultations.

“Telementoring offers front-line clinicians and providers with the knowledge and support they need to manage patients with hepatitis C, including information on newer medications that are curative,” said Souvik Sarkar, assistant professor of gastroenterology and hepatology and ECHO-plus director at UC Davis. “A unique aspect of the program is that it can be tailored to each provider’s needs.”

ECHO-plus is a collaboration of UC San Francisco and UC Davis that is based on the Project ECHO (Extension for Community Healthcare Outcomes) model of medical education. The overall goals are to increase access to specialty care for complex health conditions, and then deliver that care in communities where patients live. In the six months since its inception, ECHO-plus enrolled nearly 30 health centers across Northern California and is looking to reach an additional 20 in 2019.

telementoring team
The UC Davis Health hepatits C telementoring team (from left to right): Chung Heng Liu, physician Alicia Gonzalez-Flores, Aaron Ulmer, pharmacist Rebecca Hluhanich, physician Souvik Sarkar, Josie Tran and Candace Sadorra.

Hepatitis C is a viral infection that causes liver inflammation and, potentially, serious liver damage. It is a major cause of cirrhosis and liver cancer and a common reason for liver transplantation. People can become infected by sharing equipment used to inject drugs, being born to a mother with hepatitis C, sharing infected personal care items such as razors or toothbrushes, having sexual contact with an infected person, or getting a tattoo or body piercing in an unregulated setting.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and World Health Organization have set the year 2030 as the goal for eradicating hepatitis C. Currently, however, providers are challenged with adequately caring for the more than 3 million people in the U.S. living with the disease. 

ECHO-plus is making significant headway into addressing access-to-care issues for hepatitis C in Northern California and will expand even more as telehealth technology evolves, which will further reduce costs and ease its integration into medical practices, according to Sarkar.

“At UC Davis, we believe in providing optimal care for hepatits C across geographic and economic barriers," Sarkar said. "Telehealth increases early diagnoses, improves treatment and prevents escalation of health complications.”

For more information about ECHO-plus, email hs-ucdechoplus@ucdavis.edu.

Through its Center for Health and Technology, UC Davis pioneered telehealth in California. Visit the center's website for more information.

About the Division of Gastroenterology and Hepatology at UC Davis Health

Gastroenterology and hepatology specialists at UC Davis Health provide innovative tertiary care for the management of complex gastrointestinal and liver diseases. The gastroenterology group offers a broad range of endoscopic procedures using state-of-the-art technology and conducts research on basic and translational investigations, including liver fibrosis, liver regeneration, hepatitis C, advanced endoscopy, fatty liver disease, primary sclerosing cholangitis, primary biliary cirrhosis, Barrett's esophagus and gastrointestinal motility disorder. For more information, visit the division's website.