Response to “Dicker With Your Doc?”

In further discussion on how individuals can reduce the cost of their care, Jesse Gruman, PhD posted an article, “Dicker With Your Doc?  Not So Fast . . .” at the Health Care Blog.

Below is my response . . .

Thank you for a well-written post.

We can expect to hear much more of patient involvement in healthcare expense reduction, given the trend of greater cost assumption by the individual.

I view the cited New York Times column as being both accurate and appropriate, but, similar to related articles, it only briefly touches on too many diverse situations.  A multitude of disparate factors influence the cost of hospitalization, outpatient care, medications and tests.

Most everyone desires a reduction in overall healthcare spending.  But when patient and physician meet, not a soul in the room is concerned with saving the “system” money.  Each desires foremost what is best for the individual from a medical standpoint, and both would prefer that cost not be an obstruction. 

The question for both patient and physician:  How to be cost-conscious diplomatically, without compromising the quality of care?

Terms like “haggling” and “dickering” make attractive headlines, but understandably trigger negative reactions from physicians.  Who wants to be “dickered” with?

I do very much like the wording later in your article: “I wonder if there is a way you could help me reduce the price of my care?”  

That simple question can make a difference . . .

As an outpatient physician, I recently spent an entire month as if each and every patient had posed that very question.  Without adversely impacting the quality of care I estimate that I reduced costs by tens of thousands of dollars, much being direct out-of-pocket savings for individuals.  Just me.  One month.

Ask if I worked with the same zeal to reduce healthcare expenses this week?  Unfortunately, no.  Why?  Like the workday of most physicians, mine is overwhelmed with an oppressive myriad of competing tasks–there is just too much to do.

Significant savings is possible for those who ask their doctor to take a few extra moments to consider cost.  Although impractical in some situations (emergencies, etc.), individuals who choose active involvement in the cost of their care can often reap significant benefits.

We will hear more of this, as we should.

Stephen Meyers, MD


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