Discussion of costs and financial burden in clinical practice: A survey of medical oncologists in Australia.

Agarwal A, Karikios DJ, Stockler MR, Morton RL. PLoS One. 2022 Oct 21;17(10):e0273620. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0273620. PMID: 36269711; PMCID: PMC9586404.

Abstract

Background: A diagnosis of cancer is associated with significant physical, psychological and financial burden. Including costs of cancer is an important component of shared decision making. Doctors bear a responsibility towards educating patients about the financial aspects of care. Multiple organisations have advocated for price transparency and implementing Informed Financial Consent in the clinic. However, few studies have evaluated the perspectives of oncologists on the current state of this discussion.

Aims: The aim of this study is to determine the views and perspectives of medical oncologists regarding communication of costs and financial burden in patients with cancer.

Methods: We conducted a prospective cross-sectional online survey via REDCap. The survey was distributed to medical oncologists and advanced trainees currently registered with Medical Oncology Group of Australia (MOGA). Data was collected using the online survey comprising socio-demographic characteristics, discussion of costs and financial burden, and facilitators and barriers to these discussions.

Results: 547 members of MOGA were invited to participate in the study, and 106 of 547 MOGA members (19%) completed the survey. Most oncologists (66%) felt that it was their responsibility to discuss costs of care, however a majority of oncologists (59.3%) reported discussing costs with less than half of their patients. Only 25% of oncologists discussed financial concerns with more than half of their patients, and most oncologists were unfamiliar with cancer-related financial burden. Most Oncologists with greater clinical experience and those working in private practice were more likely to discuss costs with a majority of their patients.

Conclusions: Certain characteristics of medical oncologists and their practices were associated with reported prevalence of discussing costs of care and financial burden with their patients. In the context of rising costs of cancer care, interventions targeting modifiable factors such as raising oncologist awareness of costs of care and financial burden, screening for financial toxicity and availability of costs information in an easily accessible manner, may help increase the frequency of patient-doctor discussions about costs of care, contributing to informed decision-making and higher-quality cancer care.

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