Should GPs ask patients about their financial concerns? Exploration through collaborative research
Journal article, Peer reviewed
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Original versionOse, Bøyum, Kaspersen, Vestad, Gjelsvik. Should GPs ask patients about their financial concerns? Exploration through collaborative research. Scandinavian Journal of Primary Health Care. 2020;38(2):156-165 https://doi.org/10.1080/02813432.2020.1753344
Objective: Health services should arguably be concerned about the financial situation of patients since health problems can cause financial concerns, which in turn can cause health problems. In this study, we explored the role of the general practitioner (GP) as a potential early discoverer of financial problems who can refer at-risk patients to financial counselling services. Design: A collaborative health service research experiment. For four weeks, GPs asked their patients predefined questions about financial concerns and health, by anonymous data mapping. GPs shared their experiences with the researchers after the experiment. Setting: One GP office in Norway. Subjects: A total of 565 patients were included in data mapping by 8 GPs. Main outcome measures: Patient prevalence data and GPs experimental data of patients’ health problems that caused financial concerns and financial concerns that affected patients’ health. Results: Of 565 GP patients, 11% (n1⁄463) indicated that they had health problems causing them financial concerns, or vice versa; 9% of patients reported health problems causing financial concerns and 8% of patients reported financial concerns that affected their health. Through the data mapping experiment GPs became aware of financial concerns of their patients and by this expanded and improved their therapeutic toolbox. Several months after the experiment the GPs reported that more patients received financial counselling since the GPs asked their patients about financial problems more often than before and because the patients had heard that GPs cared about such problems. Conclusion: Our results suggest that GPs can be early discoverers of financial problems interacting with their patients’ health. When there are no clear medical explanations for the health problems that prompted the consultation, the best therapy may thus be financial counselling.