The Patient and Family Member Experience of Financial Stress Related to Critical Illness

J Palliat Med. 2020 Jul;23(7):972-976. doi: 10.1089/jpm.2019.0369. Epub 2020 Jan 2.


Background: The experience of financial stress during and after critical illness for patients and their family is poorly understood. Objectives: Our objectives were to (1) explore common financial concerns, their contribution to emotional stress, and potential opportunities for interventions to reduce financial stress in patients with critical illness and their family members; and (2) confirm patient and family members' willingness to provide information on this topic. Design: Cross-sectional survey study. Setting/Subjects: Patients (18/24, response rate 75%) and their family members (32/58, response rate 55%) from two prior randomized trials at an urban, level 1 Trauma center. Results: Ten (56%) patients and 19 (70%) family members reported financial worries during an intensive care unit (ICU) stay; 70% of both groups reported financial worries post-ICU discharge. Thirty percent (3/10) of patients and 43% (10/23) of family members who were not asked about financial concerns by hospital staff wished that they had been asked. Both patients and family believed that it would have been helpful to have information about insurance coverage, interpreting hospital bills, and estimated out-of-pocket costs. Among patients, 47% favored receiving these services after the ICU stay (7/15), while 20% (3/15) preferred these services in the ICU; 73% of family members preferred receiving them during the ICU stay (22/30), while 27% (8/30) preferred these services after the ICU stay. Conclusion: Our findings suggest that the experience of financial stress and the worry it causes during and after critical illness are common and potentially modifiable with simple targeted interventions.

Keywords: critical illness; financial concerns; financial stress; survey.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Critical Care
  • Critical Illness*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Family
  • Financial Stress*
  • Humans
  • Intensive Care Units