Improving physicians' knowledge of the costs of common medications and willingness to consider costs when prescribing

Lisa M. Korn, Steven Reichert, Todd Simon, Ethan A. Halm

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

63 Scopus citations


OBJECTIVE: To determine the effectiveness of an educational intervention designed to improve physicians' knowledge of drug costs and foster willingness to consider costs when prescribing. DESIGN: Pre- and post-intervention evaluation, using physicians as their own controls. SETTING: Four teaching hospitals, affiliated with 2 residency programs, in New York City and northern New Jersey. PARTICIPANTS: One hundred forty-six internal medicine house officers and attendings evaluated the intervention (71% response rate). Of these, 109 had also participated in a pre-intervention survey. INTERVENTION: An interactive teaching conference and distribution of a pocket guide, which listed the average wholesale prices of over 100 medications commonly used in primary care. MEASUREMENTS AND MAIN RESULTS: We administered a written survey, before and 6 months after the intervention. Changes in attitudes and knowledge were assessed, using physicians as their own controls, with Wilcoxon matched-pairs signed-rank tests. Eighty-five percent of respondents reported receiving the pocket guide and 46% reported attending 1 of the teaching conferences. Of those who received the pocket guide, nearly two thirds (62%) reported using it once a month or more, and more than half (54%) rated it as moderately or very useful. Compared to their baseline responses, physicians after the intervention were more likely to ask patients about their out-of-pocket drug costs (22% before vs 27% after; P < .01) and less likely to feel unaware of drug costs (78% before vs 72% after; P = .02). After the intervention, physicians also reported more concern about the cost of drugs when prescribing for patients with Medicare (58% before vs 72% after; P < .01) or no insurance (90% before vs 98% after; P < .01). Knowledge of the costs of 33 drugs was more accurate after the intervention than before (P < .05). CONCLUSION: Our brief educational intervention led to modest improvements in physicians' knowledge of medication costs and their willingness to consider costs when prescribing. Future research could incorporate more high-intensity strategies, such as outreach visits, and target specific prescribing behaviors.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)31-37
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of general internal medicine
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2003


  • Attitudes
  • Drug costs
  • Knowledge
  • Physicians
  • Questionnaires

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Internal Medicine


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