Reimbursing important conversations

Having conversations with your doctor can help them understand how your life outside of her office impacts your health.  Doctors’ time is often limited and the types of questions they ask might not only depend on what is most important, but what they can bill for.

End of life discussions are thought to be essential by most doctors, but they rarely have them, for a variety of reasons. In January, Medicare began reimbursing providers for end of life discussions in the hope that this type of planning would become more common place.

Growing evidence suggests that screening for poverty and connecting patients to community resources can have positive impacts on health.  Would doctors be more likely to screen for these risk factors if they were getting paid? We think so!  In a poll, 75% of doctors said Medicare’s new policy makes it more likely that they will engage patients in these conversations.

Reimbursing is a great first step to encourage providers to start having these types of discussions with patients. However, more training, engagement with community based organizations, and clinical infrastructure are likely needed to integrate this type of screening into regular practice.