Background: Physicians often do not communicate with patients about out-of-pocket costs, although research indicates that physicians and patients value such discussion.
Methods: Cross-sectional national random sample mail survey of 1400 cardiologists and general internists to quantify barriers to communication about out-of-pocket costs and strategies used to assist patients in order of likelihood (from 5 [extremely likely] to 1 [not at all likely]).
Results: Overall, 519 (39.1%) of 1328 eligible physicians responded to the survey. The most common barriers were lack of habit, insufficient time, and concern over patient discomfort. The most common strategies used to assist patients were switching to a generic drug (mean, 4.34; SD, 0.86), using office samples (mean, 4.16; SD, 1.22), and discontinuing nonessential medicines (mean, 4.03; SD, 0.99). There were no statistically significant differences between cardiologists and general internists in barriers or strategies examined (P<.05).
Conclusions: Our findings suggest that patient-physician communication about out-of-pocket costs is a problem affecting specialists and generalists nationwide. Despite barriers, physicians use multiple strategies that may vary in efficacy to assist patients burdened by these costs.