You are here
Financial distress, communication, and cancer treatment decision making: Does cost matter?
Abstracts that were granted an exception in accordance with ASCO's Conflict of Interest Policy are designated with a caret symbol (^).
Background: Financial distress (FD) increases the burden of living with cancer. Even insured patients may experience considerable FD, but little is known about whether patients want to include cost discussions in treatment decision-making. Methods: This is an ongoing cross-sectional study of insured adults with solid tumors on anticancer therapy for ≥1 month. Consecutive patients were surveyed, in person, at a referral center and 3 rural oncology clinics. Participants were asked about FD (via a validated measure), out-of-pocket (OOP) costs, discussion of costs with their doctor, and decision-making. Medical records were reviewed for disease and treatment data. Logistic regression assessed the relationship between FD and cost communication. Results: 119 participants (85% response) had a median age of 60 years (range 27-86). 54% were men, 29% non-white, and 96% completed high school. 81% had incurable cancer. 58% had private insurance. Median income was $50,000/yr. Median OOP costs were $480/mo. The mean FD score (6.7, SD 2.5) corresponded to moderate FD. 19% reported high/overwhelming FD. Overall, 48% (n=57) expressed any desire to discuss costs with their doctor, but only 21% (n=25) had actually done so. Of the 19% with highest FD, 36% (n=8) had discussed costs with a doctor, and 68% (n=15) expressed any desire to discuss costs. The most common reasons for not discussing costs with doctors were: “no problems with costs” (n=47); “want best care regardless of cost” (n=36); and “doctors shouldn’t have to worry about costs” (n=19). Of those who discussed costs with their doctor, 48% (n=12) felt the discussion helped decrease costs. 54% (n=64) wanted their doctors to account for costs in cancer treatment decision-making; 20% (n=24) always wanted costs considered in decision-making. High FD was the only variable associated with greater willingness to discuss costs (adjusted OR 2.81; 95%CI 1.05-7.50; p=0.04). Conclusions: FD was prevalent among insured cancer patients. A large proportion wanted costs discussed with doctors and included in treatment decision-making. Discussing finances may lower costs, but the discussion rarely occurs. Communication and decision-making present a potential focus for intervening on FD.