The Particulars: Rising costs of cancer care in the United States have been shown to adversely impact the emotional well-being and financial stability of patients, according to prior research. However, little is known about the attitudes and perceptions of U.S. oncologists on the cost of cancer care since the the Affordable Care Act (ACA) has been implemented.

Data Breakdown: A survey of oncologists in 35 states during the summer of 2013 included assessments of self-reported practices regarding communication on costs of cancer therapy, influences of the ACA, and perceptions of cost-effectiveness data. The majority of respondents strongly or somewhat agreed that it was important to discuss out-of-pocket costs (89%) and healthcare system costs (66%) with patients. Seven out of every 10 respondents reported that out-of-pocket costs of therapy influenced their conversations on treatment decisions. About two-thirds of oncologists felt that costs of cancer treatments were likely to have a large effect on discussions about decisions regarding treatments to recommend to patients in the future under the ACA. Only 4% reported that the government should play a role in determining cancer therapy values, but 53% thought government price controls for cancer drugs were needed. The majority believed physician education on use of cost-effectiveness data (91%) and communicating the cost of therapies with patients (85%) was needed.

Take Home Pearls: U.S. oncologists appear to desire more cost and comparative effectiveness research and more education on strategies to communicate with patients about therapy costs. They also appear to believe that costs will play a larger role in treatment decisions in the coming years under the ACA, requiring a greater emphasis on communication with patients about these costs.