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Plans Help Bridge Cost Discussion

MANAGED CARE February 2010. © MediMedia USA
News and Commentary

Plans Help Bridge Cost Discussion

MANAGED CARE February 2010. ©MediMedia USA

Put yourself in the oncologist’s position: Would you want to discuss with a patient the cost of the cancer care he is receiving? Reaction to a new study suggests that health plans can make this patient-physician conversation less awkward. The study by Tufts Medical Center suggests that as much as 84 percent of oncologists say that patients’ out-of-pocket costs influence treatment decisions, yet only 43 percent always or frequently discuss costs with patients.

Health plans can play a constructive role by bringing to light the cost-effectiveness of treatments that oncologists can use.

But Peter Neumann, ScD, the lead author, says that “oncologists want to stay in control of decisions. They seem to want more information, but they don’t want to give up decision control.”

This signals an “opportunity for managed care to provide information and to educate physicians and patients,” says Neumann. “It’s a chance to educate oncologists about strategies to use when talking with their patients about costs and letting the physician know that it’s appropriate to talk with their patients about costs. A discussion about costs of treatment is an integral part of the complex treatment decision.”

The researchers found that costs are a real part of decision making, says Neumann.