Better Communication About Costs of Cancer Care Leads to Better Patient Satisfaction

When physicians communicate with patients about the cost of cancer care, patient satisfaction increases substantially, according to a study published in Cancer.

“[Communication about treatment costs] is increasingly important in oncology practice today, as the high costs of cancer care impose tremendous financial burden on patients, their families, and the health-care system,” lead author Ya-Chen Tina Shih, PhD, wrote.

Dr. Shih, professor of health economics and chief of the section of cancer economics and policy in the Department of Health Services Research at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, and researchers conducted a literature review of articles that evaluated patient-physician communication about treatment costs and three related topics:

  • patient attitudes
  • physician acceptance
  • associated outcomes

They identified 15 articles from 12 distinct studies, finding that more than 50 percent of patients desired some communication about costs, while less than one-third of patients reported actually discussing costs with their physicians.

On the other hand, 75 percent of physicians considered discussions with patients about out-of-pocket costs to be their responsibility, yet less than 30 percent said they felt comfortable discussing this with their patients. The prevalence of these conversations varied widely, from less than 10 percent to more than 60 percent among the study populations.

“The data suggested that cost communication was associated with improved patient satisfaction, lower out-of-pocket expenses, and a higher likelihood of medication non-adherence,” said Dr. Shih. However, she noted, “the exact reason and possible causal pathway influencing [this] observation remain enigmatic.”

Source: Shih YT, Chien CR. A review of cost communication in oncology: Patient attitude, provider acceptance, and outcome assessment. Cancer. 2016 November 28. [Epub ahead of print]