Finding Cases of Hepatitis C for Treatment Using Automated Screening in the Emergency Department is Effective, but What Is the Cost?

Can J Gastroenterol Hepatol. 2022 Oct 14;2022:3449938. doi: 10.1155/2022/3449938. eCollection 2022.


Case detection remains a major challenge for hepatitis C virus (HCV) elimination. We have previously published results from a pilot of an emergency department (ED) semiautomated screening program, SEARCH; Screening Emergency Admissions at Risk of Chronic HCV. Several refinements to SEARCH have been developed to streamline and reduce cost. All direct costs of HCV testing until direct-acting antiviral (DAA) therapy initiation were calculated. Cost was assessed in 2018 Australian Dollars. A cost analysis of the initial program and refinements are presented. Sensitivity analysis to understand impact of variation in staff time, laboratory test cost, changes in HCV antibody (Ab) prevalence, RNA positivity percentage, and rate of linkage to care was conducted. Impact of refinements (SEARCH (2)) to cost is presented. The total SEARCH pilot, testing 5000 patients was estimated to cost $110,549.52 (range $92,109.79-$129,581.24) comprising of $68,278.67 for HCV Ab testing, $21,568.99 for follow-up and linkage to care of positive patients and $20,701.86 to prepare HCV RNA positive patients for treatment. Internal program refinements resulted in a 25% cost reduction. Following refinements, the cost of HCV antibody screening was $8.46 per test and the total cost per positive HCV Ab, positive HCV RNA, and per treated patient were $611.77, $2,168.64, and $3,566.11, respectively. Our sensitivity analysis indicates costs per HCV case found are modest so long as HCV Ab prevalence was at least 1%. ED screening is an affordable strategy for HCV case detection and elimination.

MeSH terms

  • Antiviral Agents / therapeutic use
  • Australia
  • Emergency Service, Hospital
  • Hepacivirus / genetics
  • Hepatitis C Antibodies
  • Hepatitis C* / diagnosis
  • Hepatitis C* / drug therapy
  • Hepatitis C* / epidemiology
  • Hepatitis C, Chronic* / drug therapy
  • Humans
  • Mass Screening / methods
  • RNA


  • Antiviral Agents
  • Hepatitis C Antibodies
  • RNA