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Talking about Healthcare Costs with Your Oncologist

My colleagues and I just published a study in The Journal of Oncology Practice, showing what happens when the topic of healthcare costs comes up during oncology clinic appointments. Check out this nice news article discussing our findings:

Even brief conversations between oncologists and patients about cancer costs can help reduce treatment expenses, a new study suggests.

“Increasingly in oncology there are many therapeutic options and they all differ slightly from one another. Where there is a huge difference, a doctor is going to recommend the best one that is the best hope for the patient. When there is a small difference and the big issue is cost, I think it’s relevant to discuss it with patients since they are going to bear some financial burden,” said Dr. Richard Schilsky, chief medical officer of The American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO).

“I am hopeful that as doctors read about studies like this they realize that it’s feasible to discuss cost in patient encounters,” said Schilsky, who was not involved in the research.

Researchers analyzed 677 transcripts of conversations taped in 2010-2013, between 56 oncologists in private practice clinics across the country and patients with breast cancer. Most patients were 55 to 74 years old and insured.

Cost came up in only 147 conversations, or 22 percent. When it did come up, oncologists were the ones who raised it 59 percent of the time, the research team reported in the Journal of Oncology Practice.

Half of the discussions lasted only about 33 seconds. But even though the discussions were brief, they were substantive enough to lead to helpful and creative solutions for patients in most cases, said lead author Dr. Wynn Hunter of the Duke University School of Medicine in Durham, North Carolina.

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