Background and aims: Prior studies have underlined the need for increased screening and awareness of chronic hepatitis B (CHB), especially in certain high-risk populations. However, few studies have examined the patterns of evaluation and management of CHB between primary care physicians (PCP) and specialists according to commonly-used professional guidelines. Our goal was to examine whether necessary laboratory parameters used to determine disease status and eligibility for antiviral therapy were performed by PCPs and specialists.
Methods: We conducted a retrospective study of 253 treatment-naïve CHB patients who were evaluated by PCP only (n=63) or by specialists (n=190) for CHB at a community multispecialty medical center between March 2007 and June 2009. Criteria for CHB management and treatment eligibility were based on the American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases 2007 guideline and the US Panel 2006 algorithm. Required parameters for optimal evaluation for CHB included hepatitis B e antigen (HBeAg), HBV DNA, and alanine aminotransferase (ALT). Preferred antiviral agents for CHB included pegylated interferon, adefovir, and entecavir.
Results: The majority of patients were Asians (90%) and (54%) with a mean age of 43±11.6 years. Compared to PCPs, specialists were more likely to order laboratory testing for ALT (94 vs. 86%, P=0.05), HBeAg (67 vs. 41%, P<0.0001) and HBV DNA (83 vs. 52%, P<0.0001). The proportion of patients having all three laboratory parameters was significantly higher among those evaluated by specialists compared to PCP (62 vs. 33%, P<0.0001). A total of 55 patients were initiated on antiviral treatment (n=47 by specialists and n=6 by PCPs). Lamivudine was prescribed more often by PCPs than specialists (33 vs. 2%, P=0.05). Preferred agents were used 96% of the time by specialists compared to 67% of those treated by PCPs (P=0.05).
Conclusion: Patients evaluated by specialists for CHB are more likely to undergo more complete laboratory evaluation and, if eligible, are also more likely to be treated with preferred longer-term agents for CHB compared to those evaluated by PCPs only. A collaborative model of care involving both PCP and specialists may further optimize management of patients with CHB.