How to get patients to care about health care costs

Nurse practitioner
Family nurse practitioner Julie Klaker gives a sports physical to Brian Aguirre, 16, at the Spanish Peaks Outreach Clinic on in this 2009 file photo.
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Patients don't really want to know how much their health care costs, according to a study in HealthAffairs.

Dr. Susan Goold and her colleagues led 20 focus groups where they presented different scenarios to the patients. The patients made clear that they didn't want their doctors to take cost into consideration when providing care and that they personally would choose the more expensive option for care, even if it provided only slightly better results.

However, this kind of interest in their health care, dubbed "patient activation," can lead to lower health care costs.

In a study of more than 33,000 patients in the Fairview Health System, researchers found that those with the lowest patient activation levels had the highest health care costs.

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"We need to begin to talk about these issues in a way that doesn't turn it into a discussion pitting money against life, and we need to find ways of getting people to think about not spending money on things that offer marginal benefit," Goold told The New York Times. "Because it's going to be tough otherwise trying to implement any cost-saving measures, if patients don't accept them."


Consumers Don't View Curbing Costs As Their Job When Choosing Treatments, Study Finds. Kaiser Health News interview with Dr. Susan Goold about the study.

How Price Transparency Could End Up Increasing Health-Care Costs. "In the traditional consumer marketplace, price transparency is a powerful force in incentivizing producers to raise the quality and lower the price of their goods...The same kind of consumer pressure rarely exerts a similar influence on the cost and quality of health-care goods." (The Atlantic)

The costs of medical care The Daily Circuit Friday Roundtable with local doctors, aired last month.