BACKGROUND: Abstaining from alcohol consumption is generally recommended for patients with Hepatitis C (HCV). However, mixed research findings coupled with a lack of consistent guidelines on alcohol consumption and HCV may influence what healthcare providers tell their HCV patients about drinking. This may be more problematic when advising nonharmful drinkers with HCV, a population for whom consumption would not be a problem in the absence of their HCV diagnosis.
OBJECTIVE: This study explores what healthcare providers advise their HCV patients who are drinking alcohol at nonharmful levels about alcohol use and what these patients actually hear.
DESIGN: We conducted separate focus groups and interviews about alcohol use and HCV with nonharmful drinkers with HCV (N = 50) and healthcare providers (N = 14) at a metropolitan teaching hospital. All focus groups and interviews were audio-taped, transcribed, and analyzed using NVivo, a qualitative data management and analysis program.
RESULTS: We found similar themes about HCV and alcohol consumption (stop completely, occasional drink is ok, cut down, and provision of mixed/ambiguous messages), reported by both providers and patients. Patient respondents who reported hearing "stop completely" were more likely to have had their last medical visit at the gastroenterology (GI) clinic as opposed to the internal medicine (IM) clinic. Furthermore, IM providers were more likely to give their recommendations in "medical language" than were GI providers.
CONCLUSIONS: To make the best health-related decisions about their disease, HCV patients need consistent information about alcohol consumption. Departments of Internal Medicine can increase provider knowledge about HCV and alcohol use by providing more education and training on HCV.
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