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      Local hepatitis C patients benefit from the cooperative efforts of Crusader Community Health and Rockford Gastroenterology Associates

      Reprinted with permission from Crusader Community Health.

      Hepatitis C is an infection that can lead to serious liver damage. About 3.9 million people in the U.S. have the disease. It causes few symptoms.

      The hepatitis C virus is spread by sharing injection drugs and needles; having sex, especially if you have an STD; an HIV infection or multiple partners; infected needles; birth (mother-to-child infection); sharing personal care items; or getting tattoos and piercings.

      Initial hepatitis C treatments were complicated and expensive with many side effects and poor success rates. In recent years, however, there have been major advances in treatment. Medications patients take orally for as little as 2 to 3 months can have a 97% cure rate.

      Because of these new medications, most Crusader patients who weren’t being treated became good candidates for these new protocols. In response, Crusader created a Hepatitis C Clinic in 2017 to treat patients who were not receiving care from specialist providers.

      The new hepatitis C medications cost $16,000 to $33,000 per month, and many insurance companies would not pay for treatments. Due to positive legislative efforts, Medicaid lifted many of its restrictions in November 2018. One remaining major barrier for Illinois Medicaid recipients was the requirement that every hepatitis C patient needed at least one specialist consultation. For a large portion of Crusader’s patients, this meant they still faced a significant barrier to receiving treatment.

      Rockford Gastroenterology Associates (RGA) graciously agreed to partner with Crusader to complete the one-time specialist consultation for qualifying Crusader patients. RGA’s scheduling team skillfully created a workflow to enable Crusader patients to schedule a one-time specialist consultation with RGA.

      After one year, numbers show 65 patients have completed treatment and are considered cured. Another 69 patients are either in treatment or have completed treatment and are awaiting final lab test results to determine if they are cured.

      IMPACT: Our community and Crusader patients are healthier. Together we have created a way to fulfil the requirements for hepatitis C treatments. RGA worked collaboratively with Crusader staff to respectfully treat Crusader patients with hepatitis C. The Crusader Hepatitis C Clinic continues to have success.