Doctors are talking to their patients about money more than they used to

Dan Gorenstein Apr 7, 2016
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Doctor and patient talk during an appointment. Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Doctors are talking to their patients about money more than they used to

Dan Gorenstein Apr 7, 2016
Doctor and patient talk during an appointment. Joe Raedle/Getty Images
HTML EMBED:
COPY

More and more of us are paying bigger chunks of our health care costs. So what role should our doctor play as we navigate this new economic reality?

According to a new report in Health Affairs, doctors are rolling up their white sleeves and getting into the nitty-gritty more than they used to.

The question, of course, is whether those conversations are effective.

To answer that, a research team at Duke analyzed 3,000 transcripts of patient-doctor visits. The authors found that somewhere between 25 to 40 percent of the time, money comes up during appointments.

To those who believe in more transparency, the thinking is that this will arm patients with the information they need to make an informed choice. 

“We have specialized knowledge. And we need to be able to help our patients navigate this,” said Dr. Chris Moriates from the University of California, San Francisco.

But some argue money issues can confuse patients, prompting them to make decisions based on their pocketbook, not their health.

Money can make physician-patient encounters tricky.“The physician should only be looking out for the health interest of the patient and that’s what the sanctity of the exam room is about,” said Harvard economist David Cutler. 

That said, Cutler believes expecting more from clinicians could improve health.

The rise of high-deductible health plans means more of us already consider money when making difficult health decisions. Cutler said it’s pretty clear patients often make poor choices when weighing things like cost and value.

Given that, Cutler believes the physician’s role must be to understand that a patient’s financial reality is part of their overall health.

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