The cost and effect of expanding a Patient Tracer programme to identify and return patients loss to follow up at a large HIV Clinic in Trinidad
Background: Patients who default from HIV care are usually poorly adherent to antiretroviral treatment which results in suboptimal viral suppression. The study evaluated the effect and cost of expanding an intervention using two Patient Tracers to track and return to care patients lost to follow up at a large HIV Clinic in Trinidad.Methods: Two Social Workers were trained as Patient Tracers and hired initially for 6 months (April –September 2017), then extended to 15 months (April 2017 – June
... April 2017 – June 2018) to call patients who were lost to follow up for 30 days or more during the period July 2016 – May 2018 at the HIV Clinic Medical Research Foundation of Trinidad and Tobago. Both the outcomes of the intervention, and costs were assessed over time. Results: Over the 15 month period, of the of 2,473 patients who missed their scheduled visits for one month or more, 261 (10.6%) patients were no longer in active care - 89 patients dead, 65 migrated, 55 hospitalized, 33 transferred to another treatment clinic and 19 incarcerated. Of the remaining 2,212 patients eligible for tracing, 1,794 (81.1%) patients were returned to care at an average cost of $38.09 USD per patient returned to care as compared to 589 of 866 (68%) patients returned to care over the 6 month period (p < 0.001) at an estimated cost of $47.72 USD per patient returned to care (p<0.001). Of the 1,794 patients returned to care, 1,686 (94%) were re-initiated/started on anti-retroviral therapy and 72.7% of these were virally suppressed (viral load <1,000 copies/ml) as of December 2018.Conclusions: Patient Tracing is a feasible and effective intervention to identify and resolve the status of patients who are loss to follow up to bring these patients back into care with the aim of achieving viral suppression on antiretroviral therapy. Over time the effect of costs of patients returned to care demonstrated greater yields making patient tracing a sustainable intervention for programmes to identify and return patients to care.