Practice Management Toolbox

Implementation of a population-based cirrhosis identification and management system


Cirrhosis-related morbidity and mortality is potentially preventable. Antiviral treatment in patients with cirrhosis-related to hepatitis C virus (HCV) or hepatitis B virus can prevent complications.1-3 Beta-blockers and endoscopic treatments of esophageal varices are effective in primary prophylaxis of variceal hemorrhage.4 Surveillance for hepatocellular cancer is associated with increased detection of early-stage cancer and improved survival.5 However, many patients with cirrhosis are either not diagnosed in a primary care setting, or even when diagnosed, not seen or referred to specialty clinics to receive disease-specific care,6 and thus remain at high risk for complications.

Our goal was to implement a population-based cirrhosis identification and management system (P-CIMS) to allow identification of all patients with potential cirrhosis in the health care system and to facilitate their linkage to specialty liver care. We describe the implementation of P-CIMS at a large Veterans Health Administration (VHA) hospital and present initial results about its impact on patient care.

P-CIMS Intervention

P-CIMS is a multicomponent intervention that includes a secure web-based tracking system, standardized communication templates, and care coordination protocols.

Web-based tracking system

An interdisciplinary team of clinicians, programmers, and informatics experts developed the P-CIMS software program by extending an existing comprehensive care tracking system.7 The P-CIMS program (referred to as cirrhosis tracker) extracts information from VHA’s national corporate data warehouse. VHA corporate data warehouse includes diagnosis codes, laboratory test results, vital status, and pharmacy data for each encounter in the VA since October 1999. We designed the cirrhosis tracker program to identify patients who had outpatient or inpatient encounters in the last 3 years with either at least 1 cirrhosis diagnosis (defined as any instance of previously validated International Classification of Diseases-9 and -10 codes)8; or possible cirrhosis (defined as either aspartate aminotransferase to platelet ratio index greater than 2.0 or Fibrosis-4 above 3.24 in patients with active HCV infection9 [defined based on positive HCV RNA or genotype test results]).

The user interface of the cirrhosis tracker is designed for easy patient lookup with live links to patient information extracted from the corporate data warehouse (recent laboratory test results, recent imaging studies, and appointments). The tracker also includes free-text fields that store follow-up information and alerting functions that remind the end user when to follow up with a patient. Supplementary Figure 1 shows screen-shots from the program.

We refined the program through an iterative process to ensure accuracy and completeness of data. Each data element (e.g., cirrhosis diagnosis, laboratory tests, clinic appointments) was validated using the full electronic medical record as the reference standard; this process occurred over a period of 9 months. The program can run to update patient data on a daily basis.

Standardized communication templates and care coordination protocols

Our interdisciplinary team created chart review note templates for use in the VHA electronic medical record to verify diagnosis of cirrhosis and to facilitate accurate communication with primary care providers (PCPs) and other specialty clinicians. We also designed standard patient letters to communicate the recommendations with patients. We established protocols for initial clinical reviews, patient outreach, scheduling, and follow-ups. These care coordination protocols were modified in an iterative manner during the implementation phase of P-CIMS.


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