Healthcare Transparency: Talking to Patients about the Cost of Their Health Care

In ever-growing numbers, patients are struggling to pay for their healthcare. Sometimes they choose to forego recommended treatment rather than incur costs they know they cannot cover.

You can help your patients by openly discussing treatment costs with them. By knowing costs and when they will occur, patients have the opportunity to ask you about less expensive alternatives, plan ahead for these costs, and seek assistance if needed.

Although these conversations can be difficult, both patients and physicians have expressed a desire to address cost concerns during the patient visit. In fact, studies have shown that patients who discussed cost concerns with their doctor or health care team feel like they have stronger relationships and more trust with that team as a result.

To help facilitate these important cost of care conversations, ACP has developed the resources listed below.

For more information on Cost of Care, please refer to the Annals of Internal Medicine special supplement on Cost of Care, issued May 7, 2019.

Cost of Care Resources

For Physicians

  1. Cost Distress Identification Tool
    Provides options for identifying patients with cost concerns.
  2. Cost Conversation Guide
    Provides guidance on how to have a cost of care talk with patients.
  3. Steps to Estimate the Cost of Care
    Provides a step-by-step process for determining costs of care.
  4. Free Online Health Care Cost Estimator Resources
    Provides resources for estimating various costs of care that can be used by both medical teams and patients.
  5. Planning Tool for Upcoming Medical Treatment
    Provides a template for laying out a full course of treatment over a period of time to help patients estimate total costs of care.
  6. Cost of Care Resources for Clinicians and Patients
    Highlights a comprehensive list of resources for patients that addresses direct, indirect and intangible medical costs.
  7. Practice Level Approach to Addressing Health Care Cost Distress
    QI-focused tool to help practices implement new workflows around cost of care conversations.

For Patients – Print and use in your office

  1. Patient FACT Sheet
    Patient-focused guide about understanding and managing their health care costs. Available in English and Spanish.
  2. Know Your Insurance
    A simple form to help patients better understand their insurance coverage and document key costs and coverage information for easy reference.
  3. Short List of Best Resources for Patients
    A one-page handout of the best resources in the comprehensive Cost of Care Resources for Clinicians and Patients document. Great for patient waiting and visit rooms.


These videos below address the importance of discussing cost of care through a clinician-to-clinician discussion, a clinician addressing patients, and a conversation between a clinician and a patient.

This work was generously funded through a grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.