Talking about cost of care helps patients make important decisions about treatment and services, and ultimately their health. But while 70 percent of Americans report wanting to discuss the cost of health care with providers, only 28 percent report doing so.

So, what’s the problem? These missing conversations could result from clinicians feeling over-burdened, patients feeling overwhelmed or self-conscious, both parties lacking information, or simply resistance to change. But status quo isn’t always best and with 24 percent of Americans paying more than $1,000 in out-of-pocket expenses annually, conversations about cost are exceedingly important.

These conversations grow more complex and even more critical when a patient is struggling or unable to pay. As providers for the nation’s most vulnerable, essential hospitals see this often. In 2016 alone, essential hospitals served more than 25.3 million patients living below the poverty line and provided more than $5.5 billion in uncompensated care.

What can hospitals do to better communicate about cost of care?

  • incorporate cost conversations into routine workflows;
  • distribute reliable conversation support tools to clinicians; and
  • offer training to equip providers with the skills and resources necessary for cost conversations.

What can providers do?

  • prioritize cost conversations as an important part of care delivery;
  • use visual and textual aids to help convey important information to patients; and
  • connect patients to resources or other staff who can help them navigate payment.

America’s Essential Hospitals, with support from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF), recently launched an online library of resources to help essential hospitals and their clinicians make these changes.

The library includes guides, videos, infographics, and other tools, all developed by organizations funded by RWJF to generate evidence-based resources to facilitate cost conversations. There are dedicated sections for providers, patients, and organizations to help everyone involved with care have more effective and open conversations about cost.

In early 2019, America’s Essential Hospitals will host a webinar series highlighting tools from the repository and presentations from experts in the field. Register now for the first webinar, “Cost of Care Conversations: Exploring the Evidence”, on Jan. 30 at 2 pm ET.