Patient-physician communication about financial problems: A cross-sectional study among over-indebted individuals

Jacqueline Warth*, Marie-Therese Puth, Ulrike Zier, Niklas Beckmann, Johannes Porz, Judith Tillmann, Klaus Weckbecker, Hans Bosma, Birgitta Weltermann, Eva Muenster

*Corresponding author for this work

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Abstract

Background

About every tenth household across Europe is unable to meet payment obligations and living expenses on an ongoing basis and is thus considered over-indebted. Previous research suggests that over-indebtedness reflects a potential cause and consequence of psychosomatic health problems and limited access to care. However, it is unclear whether those affected discuss their financial problems with general practitioners. Therefore, this study examined patient-physician communication about financial problems in general practice among over-indebted individuals.

Methods

We conducted a cross-sectional survey among clients of 70 debt advice agencies in North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany, in 2017. We assessed the prevalence of patient-physician communication about financial problems and its association with patient characteristics using descriptive statistics and logistic regression analysis. Of 699 individuals who returned the questionnaire (response rate:50.2%), we included 598 respondents enrolled in statutory health insurance with complete outcome data in the analyses.

Results

Conversations about financial problems with general practitioners were reported by 22.6% (n = 135) of respondents. Individuals with a high educational level were less likely to report such conversations than those with medium educational level (aOR 0.11; 95%CI 0.01-0.83) after adjustment for other sociodemographic characteristics, health status and measures of financial distress. Those without a migrant background(aOR 2.09; 95%CI 1.32-3.32), the chronically ill(aOR 1.90; 95%CI 1.16-3.13) and individuals who reported high financial distress(aOR 2.15; 95%CI 1.22-3.78) and cutting on necessities to pay for medications (aOR 1.86; 95%CI 1.12-3.09) were more likely to discuss financial problems than their counterparts.

Conclusions

Few over-indebted individuals discussed financial problems with their general practitioner. Patients' health status, coping strategies and perception of financial distress might contribute to variations in disclosure of financial problems. Thus, enhancing communication and screening by routine assessment of financial problems in clinical practice can help to identify vulnerable patients and promote access to health care and social services and well-being for all.

Original languageEnglish
Article number0232716
Number of pages14
JournalPLOS ONE
Volume15
Issue number5
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 5 May 2020

Keywords

  • GENERAL-PRACTITIONERS KNOWLEDGE
  • SOCIAL-PROBLEMS
  • MEDICATION NONADHERENCE
  • HEALTH-INSURANCE
  • PRIMARY-CARE
  • COST
  • DEBT
  • DETERMINANTS
  • STRATEGIES
  • IDENTIFY

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