Identifying ED patients with previous abnormal HIV or hepatitis C test results who may require additional services


      • Current HIV screening programs do not prioritize patients already known to be HIV/HCV positive.
      • A significant number of prior positive patients require confirmatory testing and linkage to care.
      • We used an electronic health record system to alert staff of the need for these health services.
      • This “proof of concept” highlights this patient subgroup and a new area of research.



      Routine emergency department (ED) HIV or HCV screening may inadvertently capture patients already diagnosed but does not specifically prioritize identification of this group. Our objective was to preliminarily estimate the volume of this distinct group in our ED population through a pilot electronic health record (EHR) build that identified all patients with indications of HIV or HCV in their EHR at time of ED presentation.


      Cross-sectional study of an urban, academic ED's HIV/HCV program for previously diagnosed patients August 2017–July 2018. Prevention program staff, alerted by the EHR, reviewed records and interviewed patients to determine if confirmatory testing or linkage to care was needed. Primary outcome was total proportion of ED patients for whom the EHR generated an alert. Secondary outcome was the proportion of patients assessed by program staff who required confirmatory testing or linkage to HIV/HCV medical care.


      There were 65,374 ED encounters with 5238 (8.0%, 95% CI: 7.8%–8.2%) EHR alerts. Of these, 3741 were assessed by program staff, with 798 (21%, 95% CI: 20%–23%) requiring HIV/HCV confirmatory testing or linkage to care services, 163 (20%) for HIV, 551 (69%) for HCV, and 84 (11%) for both HIV and HCV services.


      Patients with existing indication of HIV or HCV infection in need of confirmatory testing or linkage to care were common in this ED. EDs should prioritize identifying this population, outside of routine screening, and intervene similarly regardless of whether the patient is newly or previously diagnosed.


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