Psychiatrists Absent from Cost-of-Care Discussions

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Mental health services are tied with cancer as the third most expensive medical treatment in the United States, behind only heart conditions and trauma, according to researchers in JAMA Psychiatry.

Spending on psychiatric medications alone was $34 billion in 2005, surpassing expenditures on cancer drugs by $8 billion. Yet many mental health providers experience chronic underfunding for other mental health services.

Despite these issues, and growing concerns about the escalating costs of U.S. health care overall, psychiatrists remain largely absent from discussions about how to control spending.

Andres Barkil-Oteo, MD, MSc, of Yale School of Medicine, David A. Stern, MD, of New York Medical College, and Melissa R. Arbuckle, MD, PhD, of Columbia University Medical Center, discuss how front-line psychiatrists can become more involved in these efforts.

They address issues including lack of transparency about the actual cost of care, discomfort discussing treatment costs with patients and lack of incorporating cost considerations into medical training for upcoming generations of psychiatrists, as well as potential solutions to these problems.

Addressing the Cost of Health Care
Addressing the Cost of Health Care
Although medical professionals at large have begun to consider potential solutions for addressing high costs and low-value care, psychiatrists have been relatively insulated from the discussion for two reasons: their infrequent use of the costliest medical procedures and the diffusion of their highest cost factor, psychiatric medications, across a wide number of medical specialists.

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