Reducing bill shock for cancer patients

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Bill shock can lead to increased stress levels and worry at the best of times let alone when it comes to cancer treatment.

With cancer treatment often requiring multiple modalities of care and medical healthcare professionals’ costs can add up pretty quickly.

In response to this, four leading cancer charities have joined forces to help reduce bill shock for cancer patients and have developed a Standard for Informed Financial Consent.

The aim of the partnership between Cancer Council Australia, Breast Cancer Network Australia, Canteen and the Prostate Cancer Foundation of Australia is to provide clear guidance for doctors to discuss the costs of cancer treatment with their patients.

“The Standard for Informed Financial Consent was introduced in recognition of patients increasingly experiencing bill shock throughout their cancer treatment,” explains Acting CEO of Cancer Council Australia, Megan Varlow.

Ms Varlow adds that the Standard for Informed Financial Consent provides “clear and concise guidance to help healthcare practitioners ensure their patients clearly understand the costs” of treatment.

This, she says, will help them “decide what is best for them”, in terms of treatment plan, and will help them “plan accordingly”.

“Patients have a right to have the costs of and options for their treatment clearly outlined to them from the outset and throughout the course of their treatment if changes occur.

“Informed Financial Consent needs to be incorporated as a core part of overall consent to medical treatment,” says Ms Varlow.

CEO of Breast Cancer Network Australia, Kirsten Pilatti adds that “bill shock occurs when patients received bills they did not expect or are higher than expected”, which can lead to significant distress.

She adds that this can “lead patients to make decisions about their care that may have negative health and ongoing financial impacts”, a situation she refers to as “financial toxicity”.

“In some cases, financial toxicity can lead patients to choose inferior cancer treatment or forego treatment altogether because of the financial burden, so the impacts can be severe,” Ms Pilatti says.

CEO of Prostate Cancer Foundation, Jeff Dunn explains that some of the ways medical practitioners can ensure patients are full informed of the costs associated with care, include:

  • Making sure patients are “made aware of their health professional’s costs”.
  • Making sure patients are aware “who else may be involved in their care”.
  • Making sure patients know “where to find information about their costs”.
  • Making sure patients understand “whether there are alternatives that offer similar benefits at less or no cost to the patient”.

“Australia has a world-class health care system, and Australians experience among the highest cancer survival outcomes in the world and everyone deserves the chance to make the best decision for their care,” says Mr Dunn.

“The Standard for Informed Financial Consent will improve cancer care for both patients and health professionals in Australia, so we are encouraging practitioners to adopt the principles of the standard and pledge to ensure all patients receive adequate information to make an informed decision.”

For more information about the Standard for Informed Financial Consent, visit: cancer.org.au/assets/pdf/standard_for_informed_financial_consent