Encounter Decision Aids Can Prompt Breast Cancer Surgery Cost Discussions: Analysis of Recorded Consultations

Mary C. Politi, Renata W. Yen, Glyn Elwyn, Natasha Kurien, Sophie G. Czerwinski, Danielle Schubbe, Catherine H. Saunders, Marie Anne Durand

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


Background. Patients frequently worry about care costs, but clinicians seldom address the topic. Cost information is not typically included in patient decision aids (DAs). We examined whether including cost information in an encounter DA, with clinician training, influenced cost conversations. Method. As part of a larger trial, 14 surgeons from 4 cancer centers were randomized to 1 of 3 interventions: (1) Picture Option Grid DA that included a prompt to discuss relative treatment costs, hereafter called “cost prompt group”; (2) a text-only Option Grid DA that did not include cost information; (3) usual care. Groups 2 and 3 hereafter are referred to as “non-cost prompt groups.” Adult (18+) female patients, with stages I-IIIA breast cancer, eligible for both breast-conserving surgery and mastectomy were included. We gave surgeons feedback about adherence to the study protocol at 3, 6, and 12-months. We adapted a checklist to code the content of the audio-recorded clinical encounters. Results. 424/622 (68%) patients consented; 311 (73%) were eligible and successfully recorded (143 in the cost prompt group, 168 in the non-cost prompt groups). Costs were discussed in 132/311 (42.4%) encounters, and occurred more often in the cost prompt versus non-cost prompt groups (66.7% versus 33.3%; p<.001). Surgeons initiated the cost discussion in 86.4% of encounters in the cost prompt group vs. 34.1% in the non-cost prompt groups (p<0.001). In the non-cost prompt groups, insurance or employment questions led patients to ask about costs. Cost discussions lasted about 34 seconds when present and had sparse comparative details. Conclusions. Encounter DAs containing cost information trigger cost discussions. Additional support should help clinicians improve the quality of cost discussions and address financial distress.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)62-71
Number of pages10
JournalMedical Decision Making
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2020


  • care costs
  • financial toxicity
  • patient decision aids
  • shared decision-making


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