We have a new name — RIP Medical Debt is now Undue Medical Debt.
Hide Banner


Post Details

Pulse Check: Capturing Provider Perspectives on Medical Debt in the Patient Encounter

Lindsey Zischkale

Undue Medical Debt is excited to announce a one-year project supported by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) exploring how clinicians navigate conversations about medical debt and financial barriers with patients. We know fear of medical debt is a significant burden for people seeking health care — almost half of respondents in a Commonwealth Fund survey skipped or delayed care due to concerns about cost, while our own survey workshows nearly 6 in 10 adults have skipped or delayed care for similar reasons. What we know less about is how providers manage these conversations; what tools are available to providers to help them have these conversations, and how do they view their role in helping patients navigate financial hurdles to care?

Medical debt is a pressing financial, social, and medical issue. Being unable or uncertain how to pay for care can erode the patient-provider partnership, making the work to overcome illness and poor health more difficult. Health care providers — from front office staff to doctors — are already overburdened and exhausted and may not be aware of how large the fear of medical debt looms for many of their patients. This project will create a space for feedback and strategy building among providers that leaves them feeling empowered to have these conversations with their patients, which in turn will help strengthen patient-provider relationships.

Undue Medical Debt is working with messaging firm PerryUndem to facilitate virtual focus groups to get in-depth data and insights on the physician’s experience with patient medical debt. Our goal is to engage with a diverse range of providers; to that end, we are partnering with Communities Joined in Action (CJA), a non-profit membership organization of nearly 150 community health collaboratives across the country to help recruit participants and spark conversation. Together, we will:

  • Document the barriers faced by providers with respect to patient medical debt as well as identify the tools they use to help their patients access and pay for care.
  • Analyze provider concerns surrounding medical debt and identify opportunities for them to become changemakers on the issue.
  • Build tools to support providers as leaders and advocates, elevating the issue of medical debt and calling for policy change to mitigate its harms — with a particular focus on support for affordable, quality insurance coverage and appropriate social and economic supports for financially burdened patients.

This work contributes to the growing, broader conversation on about the growing number of underinsured people and patient trust. Patients want to be able to go to the doctor and take care of their health without worrying it will put them in debt and providers want to care for their patients without medical debt erecting a wall between them. We hope this project is only the beginning of a conversation that brings together providers and patients to tackle medical debt. We all know someone who has been touched by medical debt — be it due to being uninsured or underinsured — and the time to address it is now. Stay tuned for ways to get involved and updates on our progress over the coming months!

Lindsey Zischkale