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Rhett Wilkerson Discusses Why Aligning a Patient's Treatment Plan and Financial Capacity Is Vital

Providing patients with financial counseling related to their potential treatment costs alleviates financial burdens and promotes efficient care, said Rhett Wilkerson, BA, director of patient financial services dedicated to American Oncology Network at Florida Cancer Specialists & Research Institute.


Providing patients with financial counseling related to their potential treatment costs alleviates financial burdens and promotes efficient care, said Rhett Wilkerson, BA, director of patient financial services dedicated to American Oncology Network at Florida Cancer Specialists & Research Institute.

Transcript

What impact does financial toxicity have on a patient’s clinical outcomes?

It can have a huge impact on that. With patients, what we want to do is make sure that they get the information as early as possible so they can make prepared decisions. If it’s a last-minute thing that they find out that they’re going to have this huge bill, that’s where that toxicity comes in from. So, if we can get out in front it, makes calls to patients, let them know that we are there to help them if they aren’t able to make that payment, give them either payment options or help them find assistance—the earlier we can do that, the better chance there is that they won’t run into that issue.

How does shared decision making fit into this? Is it important for not just financial assistance programs but also for doctors to be upfront with how much different treatment options will cost so that patients can have a say in their treatment?

Yeah, so the doctor’s goal is to treat the patient. They want the best outcome for the patient as quickly as possible, but they also want it done efficiently. So, our financial counselors have a good working relationship with the physicians. We want the financial counselors to approach the doctor and have a healthy discussion. If a patient comes to us and says this is something that they can’t afford, we want to be able to go to the doctor and make sure that they understand that this is the case for the patient as well, and we’ve exhausted every effort that we can to find them assistance and have them be a part of deciding what the next steps are if there’s something else available or if we continue on the path that’s been kind of laid out there.

What are different best practices for financial counseling and patient assistance to alleviate financial burden?

So, best practices—the first that we do is make sure we get a call out to the patient as quickly as possible. We want to let them know that we have their insurance benefit and talk them through that—make sure that we give them tools that help them understand it better. Whether those are treatment estimates, payment plans, information about what maybe the drug company offers for assistance if it’s something they don’t think they’re going to be able to afford, and then being aggressive when we apply for foundations because those can open and close very quickly. So, making sure that that’s a priority for us if the patient needs that assistance.

 
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