Clara Lambert on Screening Patients for Financial Distress

Screening patients for financial distress remains a challenge, but it’s important to find those patients early and start financial planning discussions immediately, said oncology financial navigator Clara Lambert, BBA, OPN-CG, chair of the Association of Community Cancer Centers' Financial Advocacy Network Advisory Committee.

Screening patients for financial distress remains a challenge, but it’s important to find those patients early and start financial planning discussions immediately, said oncology financial navigator Clara Lambert, BBA, OPN-CG, chair of the Association of Community Cancer Centers' Financial Advocacy Network Advisory Committee.

Transcript

How should discussions of financial distress and planning be incorporated into a patient’s care journey?

I think it’s very important to meet the financial navigator or the financial advocate almost immediately. However, most of the time that doesn’t really happen just because there aren’t enough navigators and advocates yet in the healthcare systems. So, if we’re not meeting with them at their diagnostic visit when they’re first meeting with the physician, then at least before they start their treatment is the next-best time to meet with them.

How do you screen patients and assess them for financial distress?

Still working on that. We do use the NCCN [National Comprehensive Cancer Network] distress tool. However, that’s just a checkbox for the patient. There’s 2 checkboxes, really, that if a patient says “yes” to, then our social worker brings that to us. So, if they say they have insurance concerns or financial concerns.

Where does the average patient’s cost-related health literacy stand, and how can we try to improve it?

I think probably they’re pretty low level. I find that I have to define deductible, out-of-pocket, coinsurance, co-pay. I find that I have to define those enough that I actually have some paperwork that I give to a patient with their specific information on the document. It says what their deductible is, what it’s met, it defines the deductible, so that they can take a look at how that’s all going to be met to help them with their journey.