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URMC / Clinical & Translational Science Institute / Stories / May 2019 / Improving Doctor-Patient Discussions About Drug Costs

Improving Doctor-Patient Discussions About Drug Costs

doctor having a conversation with a patientMany patients in the U.S. struggle to comply with their doctors’ orders because they can’t afford their medications, yet most doctors fail to discuss drug cost concerns with their patients. A simple, one-hour training session on the importance of these conversations could help turn this around, according to new study conducted in collaboration with the UR CTSI’s Greater Rochester Practice-Based Research Network (GR-PBRN)

The study, published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, suggests physicians and staff are more likely to discuss drug costs with their patients after attending a one-hour training session covering how important drug costs are to patients, how to screen for patients in need, and how to help patients save money on medications. The training nearly doubled the rate of cost-of-medication conversations in six of seven primary care practices involved in the study – from 17 percent to 32 percent.

“It’s important for patients to understand they have options and that their doctor doesn’t want the cost of medications to be a burden that prevents them from taking them. This training is a way to provide physicians and practice staff with tools for broaching the topic with patients,” said lead study author Kevin Fiscella, M.D., M.P.H., co-director of the GR-PBRN and professor of Family Medicine and Public Health Sciences at the University of Rochester Medical Center (URMC).

Now that Fiscella and his colleagues have shown that training can increase the frequency of drug-cost conversations, their next step will be to see whether those conversations helped patients comply with their doctors’ orders. After all, improving health is the ultimate goal.

Additional URMC researchers involved in the study include Subrina Farah, MS; Robert J. Fortuna, MD, MPH; Mechelle Sanders, BA; and Jineane V. Venci, PharmD. [Learn more.]

About the GR-PBRN

Fiscella’s study is a perfect example of the type of research conducted in collaboration with the GR-PBRN, a network of 147 primary care practices who work together to address community-based healthcare issues and improve clinical practice. In fact, five GR-PBRN member practices participated in the study: Canalside Family Medicine, Culver Medical Group, Penfield Family Medicine, Rochester Internal Medicine Associates and Clinton Crossings Internal Medicine.

Researchers can collaborate with practices within the GR-PBRN to conduct research or to recruit participants for clinical studies. But researchers are not limited to the already-vast offerings of the network, which covers several counties in the Rochester region. The GR-PBRN can also connect researchers with practices in similar networks covering the Buffalo and Syracuse regions.

If you are interested in leveraging the network for a study, email the GR-PBRN to request a consultation.  


The GR-PBRN is supported by the University of Rochester CTSA award number UL1 TR002001 from the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences of the National Institutes of Health.

Michael Hazard | 5/24/2019

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