Bottom Line: Treatment in intensive care units (ICUs) is driven by urgency rather than economic considerations. Many clinicians have been trained not to consider financial issues when making treatment decisions but health care costs can be an important concern for patients and their families. To investigate how financial concerns are associated with health care decision making, researchers analyzed clinical notes from more than 46,000 ICU admissions at a large academic medical center. They report nearly 2,000 patients (about 4 percent) had at least one note reflecting financial considerations during the ICU stay. Among the total admissions, 142 (0.3 percent) included notes describing a change in the discharge plan, 142 (0.3 percent) describing a change in the treatment plan, and 303 (0.7 percent) describing a change in medication or previous nonadherence to medication associated with financial considerations. The findings highlight the importance of understanding how financial constraints may alter treatment decisions in ICUs.
Authors: Deborah D. Gordon, M.B.A., Harvard Kennedy School, Cambridge, Massachusetts, and coauthors
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