As patients face increasingly high out-of-pocket costs and difficulties navigating the healthcare system, failing to discuss available treatment options in financial terms can lead to grave consequences for patients. Medical bills are responsible for the majority of bankruptcies in the United States. Given the severe financial implications of medical bills, it is imperative that patients become more involved in discussions of their treatment plans and become aware of the costs of their decisions up front. Counseling about costs ensures that physicians avoid placing a debilitating financial burden on patients and maintain adherence to the ethical principle of non-maleficence. Various studies have shown that physicians lack proper education in health economics, which makes navigation of this aspect of healthcare daunting. Finding a place for teaching economics and health policy has been difficult given the necessity to deliver a voluminous amount of scientific content during medical education. Nevertheless, physicians function as part of a healthcare industry that is not immune from the economic principles that govern commerce in any other service business. We suggest incorporation of customer service techniques from other business settings into the traditional practice of humanistic medicine in order to facilitate cost discussion and improve patient understanding. A physician’s job is to educate the patient about potential plans of action to solve his/her problem, and costs represent key pieces of information for optimizing treatment plans. In the end, it is the patient who is entitled to decide what is best, or, in other words, the customer is always right.
Busack, MS3, Christopher D. and Fox, MS3, Bethany
"The Financial Dialogue in the Development of Medical Treatment Plans,"
The Medicine Forum:
Vol. 17, Article 20.
Available at: http://jdc.jefferson.edu/tmf/vol17/iss1/20