Hepatitis C is a viral infection that can damage your liver. If left untreated, it can cause serious complications, including liver failure. But in most cases, proper treatment can cure the infection.
If you’ve been diagnosed with hepatitis C, it’s important to get help from a qualified healthcare professional. A hepatitis C specialist can help you understand and weigh your treatment options. They can also help you manage potential side effects of treatment.
Here are five tips to help you find a doctor who can meet your treatment needs.
Ask your primary care doctor for a referral to a specialist
Many primary care doctors don’t treat hepatitis C. Instead, your primary care doctor or local community health center can refer you to a specialist who is an expert on this disease.
There are several different types of specialists who can treat hepatitis C, including:
- hepatologists, who focus on diagnosing and treating diseases that affect the liver
- gastroenterologists, who focus on diagnosing and treating diseases that affect the digestive system, including the liver
- infectious disease specialists, who have expertise on managing viral infections such as hepatitis C
- nurse practitioners, who may focus on treating people with liver conditions
If you’ve sustained significant liver damage from hepatitis C, it might be best to visit a hepatologist or gastroenterologist. Some nurse practitioners also focus on treating liver disease.
An infectious disease specialist can help treat the infection itself, but they may be less qualified to treat damage to your liver.
To find a specialist in your area, consider using the American Medical Association’s DoctorFinder database.
Ask other patients for recommendations
If you have friends or family members who’ve been treated for hepatitis C or other types of liver disease, consider asking them for recommendations. Based on their personal experiences, they might encourage you to visit one specialist or avoid another.
You can also find patient reviews of doctors and other healthcare providers online. Remember that websites offering doctor reviews aren’t necessarily vetted and often anyone can post reviews. Even so, you may find it helpful if you notice a specialist who has many glowing reviews.
Patient support groups, online discussion boards, and social medial platforms also allow people with hepatitis C to connect with one another and discuss their experiences with different specialists.
Learn if a specialist is covered by your insurance
If you have health insurance, it’s important to learn which specialists and services are covered by your plan. In most cases, it’s less expensive to visit a specialist who’s in your network of coverage. If you visit an out-of-network specialist, you may have to pay more.
To learn if a specialist is covered by your insurance plan, contact your insurance provider. They can help you learn how much you’ll have to pay out of pocket to visit the specialist. They can also share the names of other specialists who are in your network.
It’s also a good idea to contact the specialist’s office to ask if they accept your insurance. It never hurts to double-check.
Check the specialist’s credentials
Before you visit a new specialist, you may consider checking their credentials.
To learn if a doctor is licensed to practice medicine in your state, visit DocInfo.org. This database provides information about doctors’ education, certifications, and medical licenses. It also provides a public record of disciplinary action that a doctor might have faced from licensing boards.
Look for a good personality fit
Medical expertise is important — but it’s not the only thing that matters when it comes to providing medical care. It’s also important to find a specialist whose demeanor and attitudes are compatible with your needs and preferences.
Do you feel comfortable talking to the specialist about your health needs? Do they listen to your questions and concerns? Do they share information in a way you can understand? Do they treat you with consideration and respect?
If you’re not comfortable with your specialist or their recommended treatment plan, it may be time to find another doctor. The more effectively you can communicate with your doctor, the easier it will be for you to work together to treat hepatitis C.
If you have hepatitis C, it’s a good idea to get treatment from a hepatologist, gastroenterologist, infectious disease specialist, or nurse practitioner who focuses on liver disease. Ask your primary care doctor or local community health center for a referral to specialist in your area.
You can also learn more about different specialists by talking to friends or family members, connecting with other patients through support groups or social media, or searching for local specialists using online databases.