Gregory Brown, M.D., of Duke University School of Medicine and colleagues relied on content of patient visits sampled from the Verilogue Point-of-Practice database of audio-recorded and transcribed clinical encounters. The researchers focused specifically on visits for medication management in outpatient, private-practice offices across the United States. The researchers considered any mention of a patient’s out-of-pocket expenses or insurance coverage for a past, present, or potential health care service to be a “cost conversation.”
A total of 422 patients with MDD and 36 psychiatrists in clinics across 20 states were included in the study. The researchers found that 38% of visits contained a cost conversation. Cost conversations most commonly addressed medications (n=136 of 208; 65% of all cost conversation topics), and more than half of these conversations dealt specifically with the cost of psychotropic drugs (n=107 of 208; 51%). Nonpharmacologic therapies and services accounted for 35% of cost-conversation topics.
Although rates for initiating cost conversations were similar between psychiatrists and patients, physicians were more likely to initiate conversations about the cost of psychotropic medications than patients (62% versus 38%). In contrast, patients were more likely to initiate conversations about the cost of provider visits (27% versus 10%).
Overall, 45% of cost conversations involved at least one cost-reduction strategy, such as facilitating the use of copay-assistance programs or cost-saving coupons, providing free samples, or switching to a lower-cost therapy or diagnostic test.
“By exploring the frequency and duration of discussions about health care cost in these encounters, as well as the cost-reducing strategies therein, we are able to provide novel insights about the extent to which psychiatrists and patients discuss efforts to manage out-of-pocket health care costs,” wrote Brown and colleagues. “[W]e hope to help psychiatrists recognize the many ways in which they can help patients reduce out-of-pocket expenses.”
For related information, see the Psychiatric News article “Levin Meets With Congressional Leaders About Fate of Affordable Care Act.”
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