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Hepatitis C Patients Could Benefit From Physician Survey

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If choosing a doctor to help you fight the Hepatitis C virus feels overwhelming, you are not alone. To identify which physician fits your needs best, the nation’s largest health insurer has developed a rating system for patients to evaluate their doctor and share their opinions.

Faced with a diagnosis of Hepatitis C, how does someone pick the healthcare that is best for him or her? Confirming the importance resting on this decision, recent research from Germany has divulged that physicians administering Hepatitis C treatment do not have equal results. While this study confirms that a person must carefully select the type of physician he or she sees, there are many more factors that contribute to a positive medical experience.

Besides choosing a doctor with the right specialty, a new movement is emerging where patients rate their physicians. Zagat Survey, a trusted rating entity for dining and entertainment, has ventured into this new territory by partnering with a large health insurer. With an increased amount of information available to consumers, this brazen forward step will separate the mediocre docs from the extraordinary – and make it easier for those seeking treatment to find what they are looking for.

The German Study

A feature not addressed by Zagat’s doctor survey is the advantage of seeing a specialist. By looking at patients’ histories over a seven-year span, researchers from the University of Dusseldorf conducted a retrospective study analyzing Hepatitis C success rates. This study compared the type of physician administering interferon treatment against the percentage of patients achieving viral eradication. Following their evaluation, the researchers concluded that those receiving treatment by an expert hepatologist had a much higher chance of eliminating the virus than those treated by a general practitioner.

Desirable Physician Qualities

When choosing a physician to treat Hepatitis C, the likelihood of emerging virus-free usually takes precedent over any other factors. When undergoing interferon treatment, the desire for full recovery typically indicates working with a doctor who has undergone extra training and has extensive experience with hepatitis. However, there are other aspects of patient care that are very important when dealing with this challenging disease. Issues with a doctor such as trust, communication, availability and office environment can play a larger role in patient wellness than most people believe.

Trust – When a person trusts the physician whose care he or she is under, many benefits may follow:

  1. The trust helps a patient adhere to doctor’s orders, which increase the chances of treatment success.
  2. Trusting a doctor can make you feel well cared for, a feeling that can boost optimism and ease depression. These emotional lifts have been proven to strengthen the immune system, thereby increasing the chances of treatment success.
  3. When a person trusts his or her doctor, feelings of validation and support are typically enhanced. Such feelings are big contributors to a person’s perseverance through an often challenging course of interferon therapy.

Communication – The benefits of good communication between doctor and patient are twofold:

  1. Communicating freely with your doctor lessens the chance of mistaken assumptions. By being up front about history, habits, symptoms, etc., a physician can swiftly address issues that could potentially interfere with Hepatitis C treatment.
  2. Doctors who are able to communicate well can involve patients in their own healthcare plan. Such involvement increases patient trust, compliance and responsibility.

Availability – A doctor who is available to patients can respond quickly to issues that may arise during interferon-based treatment. When able to assess problems as they arise, doctors can make the adjustments necessary to optimize side effect management or treatment protocol.

Office Environment – Although seemingly superficial, the doctor’s office can also impact the patient’s experience. According to feng shui principles, a space that is warm and welcoming can help a patient feel at ease, while a room that is cold and impersonal may create barriers in the doctor-patient relationship.

The Power to Rate

Recognizing how these qualities in a physician (and his or her office) impact patient care has brought the sharing of information to an unprecedented level. WellPoint, the nation’s largest health benefits company released an online physician ranking guide based on patient input in 2008.

Developed with Zagat Survey, the WellPoint guide ranks physicians based on the qualities discussed above: trust, communication, availability and office environment.

In addition, this ratings guide includes patient comments. To reduce skewed results from just a handful of respondents, a minimum of ten responses about a physician are required before any information is posted about him or her.

According to USA Today, WellPoint’s partnership with Zagat “comes as consumers increasingly turn to the Internet to learn about products and services – and see customer reviews.” Jason Gorevic, chief marketing and product officer at WellPoint, said, “More consumers are asking for information about what other consumers think about their doctors to help them make better choices.” One in nine Americans receive coverage for their medical care through WellPoint’s affiliated health plans. However, doctor survey availability may not yet be available in all locations.

Since so many factors can influence a healthcare experience, information from previous patients can greatly help with the decision of who your Hepatitis C doctor will be. Especially when entering into a previously unknown whirlwind of doctor visits, treatment protocols, harsh medications and their side effects, WellPoint’s doctor survey can provide some people the feedback to make a more informed physician choice.


A Sagir, et al., Therapy outcome in patients with chronic hepatitis C: Role of therapy supervision by expert hepatologists, Journal of Viral Hepatitis, September 2007.

http://phx.corporate-ir.net, WellPoint Taps Zagat Survey to Help Consumers Rate Experiences with Their Doctors, WellPoint, Inc., 2007.

www.chicagotribune.com, Aetna changes its methods for ranking physicians, Bruce Japsen, Chicago Tribune, November 2007.

www.chicagotribune.com, Zagat preps for ratings on doctors, Julie Deardorff, Chicago Tribune, November 4, 2007.

www.kaisernetwork.org, Kaiser Daily Health Policy Report, Appleby, USA Today, October 2007.

www.medicalnewstoday.com, N.Y. AG, Cigna Reach Agreement On Physician Ranking System, MediLexicon International, Ltd., October 2007.

http://www.wellpoint.com/business/default.asp, Our Business, WellPoint Inc., 2009.
www.wellpoint.com, Transforming Health Care, Angela F. Braly, WellPoint Inc., 2007.

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