Bullock, A. J., Hofstatter, E. W., Yushak, M. L., Buss, M. K.
PURPOSE: Recent publications have promoted physician-patient communication on cost as a means of decreasing overall spending and minimizing patients’ financial burden in oncology. No study has assessed patients’ perspectives on cost communication in oncology. We sought to describe oncology patients’ attitudes toward cost communication, explore potential predictors for patients’ communication preferences, and assess how patients with cancer consider cost when making management decisions. METHODS: A 31-item questionnaire was developed to measure oncology patients’ communication preferences regarding the cost of cancer care, focusing on out-of-pocket costs. Items were adapted from other instruments when possible. After piloting, patients were recruited from an academic ambulatory oncology practice. Basic descriptive statistics were applied. RESULTS: Of the 771 patients approached, 256 responded (response rate, 33%). Most (68%) preferred to know about out-of-pocket costs before treatment. A majority (59%) wanted their physician to discuss these costs with them. Although 76% reported feeling comfortable discussing cost with their physician, 74% were amenable to discussing cost with someone other than their physician. Most patients did not consider out-of-pocket costs (57%) or the health care costs of the country (61%) in their decision making, nor did they believe their physician should (55%). Patients receiving active chemotherapy were less likely to want to discuss out-of-pocket costs with their physician (P = .035). CONCLUSION: Patients’ comfort with and desire to discuss cancer costs exceed that of oncologists, suggesting a need to educate oncologists on this important topic. A patient’s desire to understand treatment-associated cost does not equate with a desire for cost to influence medical decision making.