Patterns of Care Utilization and Hepatocellular Carcinoma Surveillance: Tracking Care Across the Pandemic

Am J Gastroenterol. 2023 Feb 1;118(2):294-303. doi: 10.14309/ajg.0000000000002011. Epub 2022 Sep 6.


Introduction: We studied longitudinal trends in mortality, outpatient, and inpatient care for cirrhosis in a national cohort in the first 2 years of the coronavirus disease-2019 pandemic. We evaluated trends in hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) surveillance and factors associated with completion.

Methods: Within the national cirrhosis cohort in the Veterans Administration from 2020 to 2021, we captured mortality, outpatient primary care provider, gastroenterology/hepatology (GI/HEP) visits, and hospitalizations. HCC surveillance was computed as percentage of time up to date with surveillance every 6 months (PTUDS). Multivariable models for PTUDS were adjusted for patient demographics, clinical factors, and facility-level variables.

Results: The total cohort was 68,073; 28,678 were eligible for HCC surveillance. Outpatient primary care provider and GI/HEP appointment rates initially dropped from 30% to 7% with a rebound 1 year into the pandemic and steady subsequent use. Telemedicine monthly visit rates rose from less than 10% to a peak of 20% with a steady gradual decline. Nearly 70% of Veterans were up to date with HCC surveillance before the pandemic with an early pandemic nadir of approximately 50% and 60% PTUDS 2 years into the pandemic. In adjusted models, use of a population-based cirrhosis dashboard (β 8.5, 95% CI 6.9-10.2) and GI/HEP visits both in-person (β 3.2, 95% CI 2.9-3.6) and telemedicine (β 2.1, 95% CI 1.9-2.4) were associated with a higher PTUDS.

Discussion: Outpatient utilization and HCC surveillance rates have rebounded but remain below at baseline. Population-based approaches and specialty care for cirrhosis were associated with a higher completion of HCC surveillance.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • COVID-19* / complications
  • COVID-19* / epidemiology
  • Carcinoma, Hepatocellular* / complications
  • Carcinoma, Hepatocellular* / epidemiology
  • Carcinoma, Hepatocellular* / therapy
  • Humans
  • Liver Cirrhosis / complications
  • Liver Cirrhosis / epidemiology
  • Liver Neoplasms* / complications
  • Liver Neoplasms* / epidemiology
  • Liver Neoplasms* / therapy
  • Pandemics