Objective: The consultation fee for outpatient radiotherapy was newly introduced in the national health insurance system in Japan in April 2012. We conducted a survey on the use of this consultation fee and its effect on clinical practices.
Methods: The health insurance committee of the Japanese Society of Therapeutic Radiology and Oncology conducted a questionnaire survey. The questionnaire form was mailed to 160 councilors of the Society, the target questionees. A total of 94 answers (58% of the target questionees) sent back were used for analyses.
Results: The analyses revealed that 75% of the hospitals charged most of the patients who receive radiotherapy in an outpatient setting a consultation fee. The introduction of the consultation fee led to some changes in radiation oncology clinics, as evidenced by the response of 'more careful observations by medical staff' in 37% of questionees and a 12% increase in the number of full-time radiation oncology nurses. It was also shown that the vast majority (92%) of radiation oncologists expected a positive influence of the consultation fee on radiation oncology clinics in Japan.
Conclusions: Our questionnaire survey revealed the present status of the use of a newly introduced consultation fee for outpatient radiotherapy, and the results suggested its possible effect on promoting a multidisciplinary medical care system in radiation oncology departments in Japan.
Keywords: consultation fee; multidisciplinary medical care; outpatient radiotherapy; questionnaire survey.