The Doctor-Patient Relationship: It Is Complicated

A doctor-patient relationship can impact a person's medical care. Research shows that stronger relationships are linked with improved health outcomes.

However, opening up and sharing personal information with a doctor can be difficult for some.1 In our 2020 Hepatitis C In America Survey, we asked community members what kind of relationship they had with healthcare providers.

We learned that the doctor-patient relationship can be complicated for many people living with hepatitis C virus (HCV).

Most people with hep C regularly see a doctor

Maintaining doctor appointments to monitor and manage the effects of HCV can be important to your health. Our survey found that the majority of respondents regularly see a healthcare provider for their hep C.

  • 72 percent of respondents who have been cured of HCV regularly see a doctor for their HCV
  • 69 percent of respondents who are not yet cured regularly see a doctor for their HCV

Types of doctors that are seen

While the majority of survey respondents regularly see a doctor for their hepatitis C, the types of doctors can vary. This variation is common for both respondents who have been cured of HCV and those who are not yet cured.

The most common doctors seen for HCV include:

  • Gastroenterologist (doctor specializing in the digestive tract)
  • Primary care doctor/family doctor.
  • Hepatologist (doctor specializing in the liver)

Location of care can vary

Where people get their care also varies between respondents. Of those who have been cured of HCV:

  • 33 percent see a doctor at an academic medical center
  • 27 percent see a doctor at a community or local hospital
  • 18 percent see a doctor at a specialty treatment center
  • 5 percent see a doctor at a community health center/clinic

Of those who are not yet cured of HCV:

  • 23 percent see a doctor at a community or local hospital
  • 22 percent see a doctor at an academic medical center
  • 18 percent see a doctor at a specialty treatment center
  • 11 percent see a doctor at a community health center/clinic

Satisfaction and symptom control differ

While most respondents regularly see a doctor, our survey shows that this care is not perfect for all community members. Of the 69 percent who are not yet cured and regularly see a doctor, less than half are satisfied with the healthcare they receive.

33 percent of those not yet cured of HCV feel their hep C symptoms are under control with their current treatment plan.

Talking about viral load and care

Viral load tests are used to detect hepatitis C infection and measure treatment response. Viral load testing is a key part of diagnosing, treating, and curing hep C.2

Talking to doctors about private information can be hard. We asked survey respondents to share whether they feel good talking about certain aspects of their health with doctors.

  • 61 percent are comfortable discussing their viral load with their doctor
  • 60 percent are comfortable discussing all aspects of their HCV with their doctor

Test results and treatment options are not always clear

Understanding test results can help people make important HCV treatment decisions. However, the results of our survey show that most respondents feel their doctors are not giving them the information and care they need.

  • 49 percent say they receive easy-to-understand test results from their doctor
  • 48 percent say they are satisfied with the care they receive from their doctor

In addition, only 34 percent of respondents say their doctor regularly discusses their quality of life with them.

The 2020 Hepatitis C In America Survey was conducted online from April through August 2020. The survey was completed by 190 people classified as "Cured" (no longer having the HCV infection) and 217 classified as "Not Cured" (still infected).

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