Linkage to care for hepatitis C includes a new tool: teleconsultation. Micro-elimination in prison is a recommendation and is feasible. An economic evaluation of telemedicine for hepatitis C virus (HCV) treatment in prisons has not yet been performed. This study aimed to provide a cost-minimization analysis comparing two strategies of HCV treatment in a prison: telemedicine clinical practice (TCP) and the usual clinical practice (UCP).
An observational cost-minimization study was carried out on a cohort of inmates who received anti-HCV treatment in El Dueso prison (May 2016?November 2017). A decision tree was constructed, incorporating different clinical profiles according to the severity of the disease, the results of diagnostic tests, and treatment outcomes as well as the costs of each profile. Satisfaction with telemedicine was evaluated through an 11-question questionnaire with a 5-point Likert scale.
Seventy-five inmates were treated and underwent TCP with a follow-up of one year. The average cost per patient with the TCP strategy was €1,172 (€1,151 direct costs). Had UCP been carried out, the cost would have been €1,687 (€1,630 direct). Telemedicine consultation practice produced savings of €516 (30.6%) per patient, with total savings of €38,677. The transfer costs from prison to hospital represented the most important saving item, accounting for 99.3% of the TCP-related savings. The questionnaire revealed high levels of satisfaction with TCP, with a median score of 5 in each question. Sustained virological response rates were 94.7% after the first treatment and 100% after retreatment of the four relapses.
Telemedicine consultation practice is a more efficient strategy than UCP, mainly due to the reduction of transfer costs while preserving effectiveness and user satisfaction.