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SEATTLE – (Dec. 1, 2014) – Answering a nationwide call for broader testing and treatment for the liver disease hepatitis C,  Virginia Mason Hospital & Seattle Medical Center has opened the Hepatitis C Clinic where individuals receive same-day diagnoses, medical care for liver disease, and educational resources in one convenient location.

“Diagnosis and treatment of hepatitis C are more important than ever,” said Blaire Burman, MD, director of the Virginia Mason Hepatitis C Clinic that opened Nov. 26.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends everyone born from 1945 through 1965 – the entire “Baby Boomer” generation – be tested for the potentially life-threatening hepatitis C virus, including those without known or suspected risk factors.

An estimated 2 percent of the nation’s population – about 5 million people – have chronic hepatitis C. Yet, half those affected by the blood-borne virus are undiagnosed and possibly unaware they have the disease. Left untreated, the hepatitis C virus (HCV) can cause liver failure, liver cancer or cirrhosis.

Care providers at the Virginia Mason Hepatitis C Clinic include hepatologists, infectious disease physicians, nurses and physician assistants. They are part of a larger circle of Virginia Mason experts (such as interventional radiologists, oncologists, pathologists and hepatobiliary surgeons) who collaborate in the development of care plans that meet patients’ unique needs.

“Our patients often have multiple disease diagnoses and certain liver conditions are really best cared for in this multi-disciplinary approach,” Dr. Burman said. “We want to present them with all their clinical options and empower them with knowledge about this chronic, yet curable, disease.”

Virginia Mason has long been a regional leader in treating all types of liver disease, including hepatitis C. Its new clinic expands patient access to essential services and clinical trials, and improves the patient experience by grouping services in a single location. 

Not only is the number of people diagnosed with the illness forecast to grow in the U.S. over the next decade, clinical trials at Virginia Mason and other leading research centers have resulted in recently approved medications that can cure the disease. However, the new therapies are expensive – costing up to $100,000 per patient – and individuals often need assistance in getting approval from their insurance plans for these treatments. Team members at the Virginia Mason Hepatitis C Clinic can assist in that process. Individuals may also be eligible to enroll in clinical trials at Virginia Mason that would enable them to receive treatment and medications not covered by their insurance plans.

The new Hepatitis C Clinic also offers educational programs designed to help people distinguish HCV facts from fiction. One common misconception is that the new curative therapies will eliminate potential health complications associated with advanced liver disease. “Patients with advanced HCV liver disease should be monitored by a liver specialist long after an HCV cure,” said Asma Siddique, MD, interim director, Virginia Mason Liver Center of Excellence.

King County was home to 28 percent of the 69,459 reported cases of chronic HCV in Washington state from 2000–2011. Of King County’s 534,880 “baby boomers,” an estimated 17,600 have been infected with HCV, according to the Seattle-King County Department of Public Health.

Earlier this year, Virginia Mason became the first in the Pacific Northwest to begin using non-invasive Fibroscan technology that enables physicians to diagnose the extent of liver disease without performing a biopsy. The Virginia Mason Liver Center of Excellence is on pace to provide care this year to more than 1,000 individuals diagnosed with hepatitis C.  

About Virginia Mason
Virginia Mason, founded in 1920, is a nonprofit regional health care system in Seattle that serves the Pacific Northwest. Virginia Mason employs 6,000 people and includes a 336-bed acute-care hospital; a primary and specialty care group practice of more than 460 physicians; regional medical centers throughout the Puget Sound area; and Bailey-Boushay House, the first skilled-nursing and outpatient chronic care management program in the U.S. designed and built specifically to meet the needs of people with HIV/AIDS. Benaroya Research Institute at Virginia Mason is internationally recognized for its breakthrough autoimmune disease research. Virginia Mason was the first health system to apply lean manufacturing principles to health care delivery to eliminate waste, lower cost, and improve quality and patient safety. Virginia Mason website: www.VirginiaMason.org

To learn more about Virginia Mason, please visit Facebook.com/VMcares or follow @VirginiaMason on Twitter. To learn how Virginia Mason is transforming health care and to join the conversation, visit our blog at VirginiaMasonBlog.org.

Media Contact:
Gale Robinette
Virginia Mason Media Relations
(206) 341-1509
gale.robinette@vmmc.org

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