New resource to foster patients’ financial health literacy

Morgan Liotta

23/07/2019 4:01:36 PM

A new RACGP-endorsed guide aims to help patients understand health costs and empower their discussions around medical fees.

Tony Bartone and Greg Hunt
AMA President Dr Tony Bartone and Health Minister Greg Hunt launch the Informed Financial Consent guide in Canberra.

When a patient visits a GP or specialist, most can expect to pay a fee.
Recent debate around Australia’s bulk-billing rates suggests there is uncertainty around what portion is covered by Medicare or private health insurers, and what the out-of-pocket cost will be.
As such, the Australian Medical Association (AMA) has collaborated with patients and various other medical organisations to release Informed financial consent: A collaboration between doctors and patients.
Intended to help avoid surprises when presented with medical costs, the guide assists patients to work with their doctors to understand the costs, as well as give them confidence to discuss and question fees with their doctors.
At the guide’s official launch at Parliament House, Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt and AMA President Dr Tony Bartone described the new resource as ‘a major step in building patient health literacy’, that provides clear information to help navigate the health system.
‘For patients [in our current healthcare system] there are two concerns – what do they ultimately have to contribute, and are they being surprised in that?’ Minister Hunt said.
‘That surprise is one of the greatest challenges ... and this guide ensures patient knowledge and transparency about the options they have in choosing a doctor, specialist, or pathway in their treatment, and making sure there are no surprises.’
Dr Michael Wright, Chair of the RACGP Expert Committee – Funding and Health System Reform, told newsGP the guide will help better inform patients’ expectations of medical costs and build on doctor–patient relationships.
‘GPs frequently assist patients in navigating their way through the health system, so having clearer information relevant and accessible to both patients and GPs should be helpful,’ Dr Wright said.
‘The Australian health system is complex – costs come from multiple areas and have been increasing for many years, particularly for private health insurance and out-of-pocket costs for patients for private hospital procedures and care from non-GP medical specialists.
‘This guide provides useful information to assist patients and doctors in understanding where costs come from and who pays for them ... [which] should be everyone’s concern – patients, doctors or health funders.’  
Dr Wright also highlights the importance of providing patients with clear information about the costs of various treatment options to aid their decision in what might be the best treatment for them.
‘Even when limited options are available it remains important for patients to be aware of the costs of their healthcare,’ he said.  
‘No-one likes to be confronted with bill shock, and healthcare should not be any different. 
‘Obviously not every cost can always be predicted in healthcare, but encouraging patients to know what their health insurance does and does not cover is a step in the right direction.’
Informed financial consent: A collaboration between doctors and patients includes:

  • information on fees and medical gaps
  • templates for doctors to provide cost information to patients before medical procedures
  • an explainer on how out-of-pocket costs can arise
  • an informed financial consent form for doctors and patients to use together
  • suggested questions for patients to ask their doctors about costs.
The guide will be available through some medical organisations and individual medical practices.

bulk-billing rates general practice billing health literacy Medicare Benefits Schedule

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Dr Surekha Vijayendra Desai   24/07/2019 3:55:21 PM

I feel there has to be some thinking for fees as we GP are expected to do care plans and be responsible for the follow up to allied health care professionals yet allied healthcare charges met by Medicare are far more re numeration the GP who is responsible for the out come