Journal of General Internal Medicine

, Volume 18, Issue 1, pp 31–37

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
Original Articles


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.

Key words

drug costs knowledge attitudes physicians questionnaires 


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Copyright information

© Society of General Internal Medicine 2003

Authors and Affiliations

  • Lisa M. Korn
    • 1
  • Steven Reichert
    • 2
  • Todd Simon
    • 3
  • Ethan A. Halm
    • 3
    • 4
  1. 1.the Robert Wood Johnson Clinical Scholars Program, Department of MedicineJohns Hopkins School of MedicineBaltimore
  2. 2.the Division of General Internal Medicine, Department of MedicineEnglewood Hospital and Medical CenterEnglewood
  3. 3.the Division of General Internal Medicine, Department of MedicineMount Sinai School of MedicineNew York
  4. 4.the Department of Health PolicyMount Sinai School of MedicineNew York
  5. 5.Department of Public HealthWeill Medical College of Cornell UniversityNew York
  6. 6.Department of Health PolicyMount Sinai Medical CenterNew York

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