In a first-of-its-kind study, researchers found an eye-opening disconnect between the priorities of patients and clinicians when it comes to the information needed to make decisions about treatment options. This as huge cause for concern because over 15 million American adults seek treatment for depression annually.
On a positive note, both patients and clinicians who treat depression consider the effectiveness of the treatment to be the most important priority. Disconnect arises when it comes to cost of treatment and insurance information. The patients view this as a high priority, while doctors and clinicians do not put a lot of importance to these factors.
The study, which was conducted by researchers at The Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy & Clinical Practice, is published online by BMJ Open,
As part of the study, the research team led by Paul Barr, an assistant professor at The Dartmouth Institute surveyed around 1,000 Americans and 250 clinicians.
The criterion for selection of patients was they had to be Americans who were currently taking treatment for depression or have previously been treated for depression. They were also sub-classified based on age, gender and education level.
The criterion for clinicians was that that they should be clinicians in the United States who had recently treated patients for depression. On average, these clinicians have 15 years of professional experience as therapists, psychiatrists, or primary care physicians.
The exhaustive study revealed that although many health care providers were aware that their patients wanted information on treatment costs and insurance coverage, they did not cover these topics with their patients. Prof. Barr believes that the lack of communication on these topics could be due to time limitations, difficulty in identifying patient-specific costs, and a belief that medical decisions should be need-based and not cost-based.
According to Barr, what these clinicians overlook is that the cost of treatment has a significant impact on a patient’s financial stability. And this plays a huge role in whether they actually begin a treatment, and thereof, their well-being
In the second part of their study, the team took the patient-respondents through the three-question survey about their most recent visit where they discussed depression with their clinicians.
The three questions included 1) how much effort they felt was made to help them understand their health issues 2) how well they felt the clinician listened to what was important to them regarding their health issues and 3) next steps.
The results were shocking. Only 18% reported that the perceived shared decision making with their clinician was high. The rest perceived a lower level of shared decision-making.
The study’s authors note that by empowering patients with knowledge of treatment costs and insurance coverage, the clinicians will be in a better position to explore different treatments.
The team believes that keeping all lines of communication open between the patients and the clinicians will go a long way in helping people with depression get the treatment they want, and need.