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VI. Structuring the Conversation: How to Talk to Your Patients about the Costs of Their Care

Primary sources: Kaiser Permanente Washington, University of Alabama Birmingham, Center for Health Progress

“They could come in and say, ‘you’re due for more treatments which is going to include this, this and this. We want to give you an estimate of the cost of it. If you cannot afford it, we will work something out with you to make it easier for you to pay.’ I would just like them to be honest and let me know what is facing me, what it is going to cost and how I can pay for it if I do not have the ready cash.” Breast cancer survivor, University of Alabama at Birmingham study

Key Takeaways

  • Different patients have different needs both in terms of their actual financial concerns and how and when these conversations occur. These needs fit three basic categories:
    • Acute financial need
    • Assistance with budget and planning
    • Need to make a clinical decision in which cost is a factor
  • A useful framework for structuring cost-of-care conversations is:
    • Reassurance–an open, empathetic, non-judgmental approach
    • Action-specific steps to address the issues
    • Resources–connect patients with the full range of available resources
  • Successful cost-of-care discussions include:
    • Compassionate messaging
    • Sensitivity to fears of receiving lesser care
    • Information on the estimated costs for the patient
    • An established rapport and personalized relationship with the patient