Innovation in lockdown
How are healthcare professionals adapting, collaborating and innovating to reach, test and treat hepatitis C patients during the COVID-19 pandemic? Experts from around the world share their stories of innovation during unique circumstances, to maintain progress toward hepatitis C elimination.
Harnessing telemedicine for rapid treatment
Lead Hepatitis Nurse William Mullaney and his team are responsible for delivering hepatitis services across 30 locations in Manchester, UK – but all this stopped when lockdown hit in March 2020.
The usual settings where his team would engage with patients - surgeries, drug and alcohol services, probation services, clinics – were all closed. William had to quickly innovate, switching to virtual methods for the assessment, testing and treatment of patients.
“Now all we needed was a copy of the dry blood spot test and a telephone number and we could do everything.”
Collaboration was key too, with William and his team working in partnership with clinicians, pharmacists and even delivery networks to get the right treatments to the right patients without delay.
Watch William’s video below.
Collaboration unlocks activation
Hazel Allen, Consultant Nurse in liver disease in Dorset, faced a similar challenge once lockdown hit. Leading nurse teams in hospitals, prisons, outpatient care and community clinics, Hazel had to quickly innovate once services closed and access was revoked.
For Hazel and her team, it was collaboration which helped solve the problem. Working alongside local councils to get access to hotels and hostels where patients were housed during the pandemic meant Hazel and her team could continue their outreach efforts.
The collaboration did not stop there. Hazel created a multi-agency team, including nurses, homeless and drug and alcohol services, blood-borne virus services, charities and the third sector, and public health teams all of whom came together to innovate in new ways to maintain efforts to test and treat patients.
“We’ve treated many more people than we expected”
Hear more on this innovative approach, including how Hazel and her team ran pop up clinics using a bus service and voucher incentives to encourage patients to engage with hepatitis services:
Creating opportunity from challenge
Pharmacist Luz Goretti Santiago and Dr. Franciso Pérez have enjoyed a longstanding collaboration in the care pathway for HCV PWID patients at the Hospital de la Candelaria in Tenerife. This pathway involves screening and triage of patients via a dried blood spot testing on the Drug Dependency Attention Unit La Laguna, followed determination of the RNA in a "single step" at the hospital microbiology laboratory, appointment of the positives for a single hospital consultation in which the diagnostic and prescription process is completed. The whole process is carried out in a maximum period of 2-3 weeks. The follow-up, during and after the treatment, is done through the DAU including the medication management and controlled virological response by means of dried blood drop testing.
During the COVID situation, patients had their first appointment at the hospital, but telemedicine and email was used to conduct follow up appointments to ensure adherence. This allowed collaboration with the drug addiction centers to expand further, permitting the hospital pharmacy to prescribe medication, which was then dispensed by the centres themselves. This adapted approach allowed the hospital to maintain screening levels seen prior to the pandemic.
“Medical practice can be adapted. Opportunities arise from challenge”
Hear from Luz and Dr Pérez explain this unique collaboration in more detail in this short video:
Please note this video has Spanish subtitles
Hear more perspectives on how COVID-19 has changed hepatitis screening and linkage to care in the SLTC 2020 hub.
This article and videos represent the views and opinions of William Mullaney, Hazel Allen, Luz Goretti Santiago and Dr. Franciso Pérez and not those of Gilead Sciences Ltd.