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The new year is almost nigh and we can expect patient out of pocket costs to go sky high!

Rising Costs Affect Patient Care
Rising Costs Affect Patient Care

While it seems that every new year brings higher patient deductibles and coinsurance and reduced benefits, I have definitely seen the trend escalating over the past few years. 2010 portends to be no exception to that trend.

In the past, healthcare providers were trained not to discuss finances with their patients, but as the old saying goes, “times, they are a’changing.”   That adage may never be truer than right now when it comes to healthcare costs. Experts now advise healthcare providers to come up with effective ways to discuss out of pocket costs with their patients.

Some providers still believe that costs should never be an issue when it comes to patient care.  The new reality is, however, that cost is a significant factor for whether a patient will follow a given treatment, so providers who are concerned about the compliance of their patients with their treatment plans, must take into consideration the costs and work with their patients to come up with workable solutions without putting the patients at risk.

For example, a provider may prescribe a certain medication for a patient, but is he aware that the medicine is very costly?  Is he aware that the patient does not have prescription coverage, therefore the entire burden of that cost falls on the patient?  A candid dialogue with the patient as well as offering practical solutions such as discount cards for that medicine to use at the pharmacy or perhaps an alternate, but just as effective medication that is available as a generic, would ensure that the patient is not at risk because he simply cannot afford the medicine and will never have the prescription filled.

Providers and their staff should make every effort to become familiar with the costs of treatment that they commonly prescribe so that they can work with their patients to ensure compliance, and in the end, reach the common goal:  a healthier patient.

Some practical tips on communicating with patients about the costs of treatment can be found at:

http://www.ama-assn.org/amednews/2009/11/30/bisa1130.htm

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/pmc1490152/

http://www.jfponline.com/pages.asp?aid=8100