What Physicians Could Learn from Accountants and Veterinarians

What Physicians Can Learn From ARebecca Plevin, from KPCC public radio in California, is quickly becoming one of my favorite health reporters. She is really digging in to the strange world of health economics. Here’s a nice piece she did, comparing how people talk about costs when meeting with financial counselors versus veterinarians versus, of course, going to see their own doctor:

Here at Impatient, we’ve been exploring why doctors and patients don’t often discuss the costs of health care. I’ve also been offering tips¬†on how both can play a role in making these conversations a part of routine care.

But this concept of discussing costs in the exam room is still foreign to a lot of people. So today, for a radio story that’s airing on KPCC, I provide examples of situations where these types of cost-related discussions occur more frequently.

My search for models for better conversations about health costs brought me to the Hollywood office of accountant Persida Matei.

She says she asks her clients a lot of questions when she first starts working with them. Questions, she says, like, “are you married? Do you have children? What is your age? What is your tolerance to risk?”

She says she would never offer investment advice without first understanding her client’s short- and long-term goals. She explains: “It may be a great investment, but not a great investment for them. And then you’ve done them a disservice.”

What can we learn from Matei’s interactions with her clients?

For one, it’s important that doctors know if a patient is on a high-deductible health plan, and is digging deep into her own pocket to pay for recommended procedures and medications. As I’ve reported, a doctor might then tailor any recommendations to the patient’s specific needs.

Dr. Peter Ubel, a physician who studies health care costs, is a big advocate for these types of discussions.

“I used to tell my patients, ‘look, I’m the expert on the medical facts, but you’re the expert on you,'” Ubel says. “And so I need to understand you better, to help you figure out what’s best.” (To read the rest of this article, please visit KPCC.)

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