Financial Toxicity and Your Practice

Financial toxicity is more than a buzzword, it is used to describe the out-of-pocket costs and the economic stress of cancer treatment; burdens that can be toxic to the patient and families. A recent study by Drs. Chino and Hahn -” The unseen side effect that can erode the efficacy of our cancer treatments” found many radiation patients experienced financial toxicity. Surprisingly more patients were worried about the financial aspects of cancer (57%) than dying of cancer (54%)! It doesn’t matter if you treat Proton, SBRT, IMRT, or Brachy if the patient worries whether they must sell the house to be treated!

According to the study and as a specialty, we are not doing a good job of addressing this. 43% of radiation oncologists surveyed thought that someone in their office “often or always” discusses the financial burden with patients…, yet almost 75% of patients stated that their physicians and staff did not help them navigate the financial aspects of their care. That’s quite a disconnect!

We are on a mission to impact patients and families and eliminate this toxicity in radiation. We haven’t figured it all out yet, but we start the patient dialogue early in the process and try to have 5 touch-points with every patient regarding the financial aspects of their care. One of the most meaningful communications comes at the end of treatment. Patients and families are grateful to know the finality of their cost vs. receiving a bill 6 months later that sends them into cardiac arrest. We pummel payers, we never send patients to collection agencies, and we have lowered the average patient balance – for the entire course of radiation – under financial toxicity levels. But I need your help.

What have you found to reduce financial toxicity? How are you ensuring that the best in class treatment modalities are not diminished from financial stress? I’d appreciate your feedback and I hope to share some of your ideas in the future.

As proof that this contrarian approach works – A patient recently called our staff to express her gratitude to our office for walking her through the financial process. She said,  “It is such a joy to call this office to make payments because everyone is so nice, we have many bills and this office has by far been the most pleasant and helpful.”  

I’m pleased to see the research being done on the very real effects of financial toxicity. Let’s join forces to impact patients and families with more solutions!

Grateful,
Dan

See more news from RBS in our February newsletter.