Bioethics Blogs

Costs, Schmosts!

Talk to your doctor about your out-of-pocket expenses. Ask about the cost of your meds. And await for the sound of silence! Sadly, that is too often what happens in medical clinics today. Here is a nice essay, exploring the topic, from a healthcare reporter.

With access to information about the costs of care, patients can make better choices about treatment paths that are aligned with their financial goals. Absent that information—or conversations with their physicians about costs—it’s virtually impossible for patients to incorporate this information into their decision-making.

Herein lies the problem: When physicians don’t talk to their patients about the cost of the care they receive, patients who are blindsided by medical bills may stop showing up for appointments, stop taking medications, and/or decide against pursuing their recommended treatment plans, which reduces the cost of care in the short term but can result in higher costs—for payers, providers, and patients—in the long term.

“We as physicians are trained to try to help patients weigh pros and cons [associated with treatment paths], but we don’t do that well when it comes to costs,” says Peter Ubel, MD, professor of business administration and medicine at Duke University. “Take an ultrasound, for example. A lot of [physicians] think, ‘What’s the downside? It’s a non-invasive test. I’ll just [order an ultrasound] and check the results.’”

What physicians often forget is that the cost of that ultrasound—which could be as much as $500—can “invade our patients’ wallets,” he says.

To read the rest of this article, please visit the Modern Medicine Network.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.