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Rogal SS, Arnold RM, Chapko M, Hanusa BV, Youk A, Switzer GE, Sevick MA, Bayliss NK, Zook CL, Chidi A, Obrosky DS, Zickmund SL. The Patient-Provider Relationship Is Associated with Hepatitis C Treatment Eligibility: A Prospective Mixed-Methods Cohort Study. PLoS ONE. 2016 Feb 22; 11(2):e0148596.
Hepatitis C virus (HCV) treatment has the potential to cure the leading cause of cirrhosis and hepatocellular carcinoma. However, only those deemed eligible for treatment have the possibility of this cure. Therefore, understanding the determinants of HCV treatment eligibility is critical. Given that effective communication with and trust in healthcare providers significantly influences treatment eligibility decisions in other diseases, we aimed to understand patient-provider interactions in the HCV treatment eligibility process. This prospective cohort study was conducted in the VA Pittsburgh Healthcare System. Patients were recruited after referral for gastroenterology consultation for HCV treatment with interferon and ribavirin. Consented patients completed semi-structured interviews and validated measures of depression, substance and alcohol use, and HCV knowledge. Two coders analyzed the semi-structured interviews. Factors associated with patient eligibility for interferon-based therapy were assessed using multivariate logistic regression. Of 339 subjects included in this analysis, only 56 (16.5%) were deemed eligible for HCV therapy by gastroenterology (GI) providers. In the multivariate logistic regression, patients who were older (OR = 0.96, 95%CI = 0.92-0.99, p = .049), reported concerns about the GI provider (OR = 0.40, 95%CI = 0.10-0.87, p = 0.02) and had depression symptoms (OR = 0.32, 95%CI = 0.17-0.63, p = 0.001) were less likely to be eligible. Patients described barriers that included feeling stigmatized and poor provider interpersonal or communication skills. In conclusion, we found that patients' perceptions of the relationship with their GI providers were associated with treatment eligibility. Establishing trust and effective communication channels between patients and providers may lower barriers to potential HCV cure.