4 ways to help patients pay for care

Almost three-quarters of healthcare providers now discuss treatment costs with patients, according to a recent survey, but ensuring that patients can afford care remains a significant--and growing--challenge. Between the fourth quarters of 2013 and 2014, average costs for patients increased 11 percent, while available credit decreased, according to a new report from TransUnion Healthcare.

"Despite a slowly improving economy, many consumers are finding they have less money to make these payments," Gerry McCarthy, president of TransUnion Healthcare, said in a statement. "This issue is not just about patients, though, as thousands of healthcare administrators across the country face the challenge of providing quality care while also seeking fair compensation."

Medical Economics interviewed several physicians who offered tips for addressing financial concerns with patients, including the following:

  • Start the conversation. Even if patients want to talk about costs, statistics show they may refrain. Offering alternatives to expensive drugs opens the door to financial discussions down the road.
  • Ask indirectly. Rather than asking patients whether they can afford prescribed medication, focus on adherence. If patients are skipping doses, ask them why to see if finances are to blame.
  • Assemble alternate resources. Many patients dislike talking finance with doctors directly, but may be open to talking to a health system social worker, for example.
  • Help patients prioritize. Be honest about services a patient may be able to safely skip and ones they shouldn't delay. 

To learn more:
- read the article