Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Patient acceptance of universal screening for hepatitis C virus infection

Phillip O Coffin1*, Anne M Stevens2, John D Scott1, Joanne D Stekler1 and Matthew R Golden1

Author Affiliations

1 Division of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, University of Washington, Seattle WA, USA

2 School of Medicine, University of Washington, Seattle WA, USA

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BMC Infectious Diseases 2011, 11:160  doi:10.1186/1471-2334-11-160

Published: 6 June 2011

Abstract

Background

In the United States, about 70% of 2.9-3.7 million people with hepatitis C (HCV) are unaware of their infection. Although universal screening might be a cost-effective way to identify infections, prevent morbidity, and reduce transmission, few efforts have been made to determine patient opinions about new approaches to screening.

Methods

We surveyed 200 patients in August 2010 at five outpatient clinics of a major public urban medical center in Seattle, WA, with an 85.8% response rate.

Results

The sample was 55.3% women, median 47 years of age, and 56.3% white and 32.7% African or African-American; 9.5% and 2.5% reported testing positive for HCV and HIV, respectively. The vast majority of patients supported universal screening for HCV. When presented with three options for screening, 48% preferred universal testing without being informed that they were being tested or provided with negative results, 37% preferred testing with the chance to "opt-out" of being tested and without being provided with negative results, and 15% preferred testing based on clinician judgment. Results were similar for HIV screening.

Conclusions

Patients support universal screening for HCV, even if that screening involves testing without prior consent or the routine provision of negative test results. Current screening guidelines and procedures should be reconsidered in light of patient priorities.