Is it time for physicians to discuss healthcare costs with patients?

November 10, 2013

Three physicians argue it is important to discuss the costs of tests and treatment decisions with patients.

 

Three physicians writing in the New England Journal of Medicine argue that physicians must begin discussing cost with their patients.

The authors- Peter A. Ubel, MD; Amy P. Abernethy MD, PhD; and S. Yousuf Zafar, MD, MHS-argue in a piece published in October that physicians should treat cost impacts on patients the same way as a potentially harmful side effect from a treatment.

“Since healthcare providers don’t often discuss potential costs before ordering diagnostic tests or making treatment decisions, patients may unknowingly face daunting and potentially avoidable healthcare bills,” the authors write.

The authors argue that discussing costs with patients is “well within physicians’ traditional duties.

“Because treatments can be ‘financially toxic,’ imposing out-of-pocket costs that may impair patients’ well-being, we contend that physicians need to disclose the financial consequences of treatment alternatives just as they inform patients about treatments’ side effects.”