The authors have no conflicts of interest (financial or otherwise) to declare.
Discussing Health Care Costs with Patients
An Opportunity for Empathic Communication
Article first published online: 13 JUN 2005
Journal of General Internal Medicine
Volume 20, Issue 7, pages 666–669, July 2005
How to Cite
Hardee, J. T., Platt, F. W. and Kasper, I. K. (2005), Discussing Health Care Costs with Patients. Journal of General Internal Medicine, 20: 666–669. doi: 10.1111/j.1525-1497.2005.0125.x
- Issue published online: 13 JUN 2005
- Article first published online: 13 JUN 2005
- Received for publication January 15, 2005 Accepted for publication February 3, 2005
- physician-patient communication;
- health care costs;
Escalating health care costs are affecting patients across the country. As employers and insurance companies face higher expenses, they may move to a cost-sharing strategy, which potentially increases financial burdens on patients. In this situation, physicians may find themselves serving as both medical and financial advisors for their patients. Clinical encounters in which patients experience financial hardship can be awkward and frustrating for both parties. Physicians must learn to discuss issues of affordability in a manner that builds, rather than detracts, from a therapeutic alliance. This article describes our experiences using several communication skills that can help in the discussion of health care costs with patients. The primary skill, empathic communication, which includes “we” statements and “I wish …” statements, serves to create a platform for shared decision-making, negotiation, and a search for alternatives. In addition, it is helpful if physician offices have resource materials available and strategies identified to assist patients facing financial hardship.