Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) – a condition in which fat accumulates in the liver in people who drink little or no alcohol – is the most common type of chronic liver disease in Australia. NAFLD is associated with a reduction in health-related quality of life, and as the number of NAFLD cases increase, the health system will incur increased costs associated with its diagnosis, management and disease progression. Currently, many patients who present to primary care with abnormal liver function tests and referred for assessment in secondary care. Due to the large number of patients with NAFLD, this results in long waits for clinical and fibrosis assessment, placing unnecessary burden on the public hospital system.
AusHSI researchers Professor Adrian Barnett, Dr Sanjeewa Kularatna and Dr David Brain have partnered with clinicians and researchers from the University of Queensland, Queensland Institute of Medical Research and the University of the Sunshine Coast to assess an alternative to this current model of care – the NHMRC funded ‘LOCal Assessment and Triage Evaluation of Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (LOCATE-NAFLD)’.
LOCATE-NAFLD is a randomised trial, comparing two alternative models of care for NAFLD (usual care versus LOCATE-NAFLD care). Participants randomised to the intervention will be screened in the community with a non-invasive device called a Fibroscan, , a scan they may have otherwise have waited months to receive. The scan results can then determine if their disease, with high risk patients sent to a specialist, and low-risk patients returned to the care of their GP, reducing unnecessary hospital appointments.
Through this faster assessment and stratification of patients in the community, the study aims to greatly reduce referrals for hospital-based appointments, and improve surveillance of high-risk disease, resulting in enhanced management of complications that result in avoidable, high cost hospital admissions.