Discussing Out-of-Pocket Expenses During Clinical Appointments: An Observational Study of Patient-Psychiatrist Interactions.
OBJECTIVE: High out-of-pocket expenses for medical treatment have been associated with worse quality of life, decreased treatment adherence, and increased risk of adverse health outcomes. Treatment of depression potentially has high out-of-pocket expenses. Limited data characterize psychiatrist-patient conversations about health care costs. METHODS: The authors conducted content analysis from 422 outpatient psychiatrist-patient visits for medication management of major depressive disorder in community-based private practices nationwide from 2010 to 2014. RESULTS: Patients' health care expenses were discussed in 38% of clinic visits (95% confidence interval [CI]= 33%-43%). Uninsured patients were significantly more likely to discuss expenses than were patients enrolled in private or public plans (64%, 44%, and 30%, respectively; p<.001). Sixty-nine percent of cost conversations lasted less than one minute (median=36 seconds; interquartile range [IQR]=16-81 seconds). Cost conversations most frequently addressed psychotropic medications (51%). Physicians initiated 50% of cost conversations and brought up costs for psychotropic medications more often than did patients (62% versus 38%, p=.009). Conversely, a greater percentage of patient-initiated cost conversations addressed provider visit costs (27% versus 10%, p=.008). Overall, 45% of cost conversations mentioned cost-reducing strategies (CI=37%-53%). The most frequently discussed cost-reducing strategies were lowering cost by changing the source or timing of an intervention (for example, changing pharmacies), providing free samples, and switching to a lower-cost therapy or diagnostic test. CONCLUSIONS: Psychiatrists and patients regularly discuss patients' health care costs in visits for depression. These discussions cover a variety of clinical topics and frequently include strategies to lower patients' costs.
Brown, GD; Hunter, WG; Hesson, A; Davis, JK; Kirby, C; Barnett, JA; Byelmac, D; Ubel, PA
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