Research Story Tip: Grant Focuses on Physician Use of Prescription Drug Pricing Tools During Patient Care


Researchers at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine have received $400,000 from the Patrick and Catherine Weldon Donaghue Medical Research Foundation to analyze the use of real-time prescription pricing tools that automatically calculate the out-of-pocket cost of medications and appropriate alternatives for doctors to review with their patients during their visit.

“Our long-term goal is to facilitate the adoption of and measure the effectiveness of these real-time health benefit tools nationwide,” says Fasika Woreta, M.D., M.P.H., assistant professor of ophthalmology at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.

The Johns Hopkins Medicine researchers will use the grant to study how physicians use the real-time prescription benefit tools in their ambulatory clinic visits over a two-year period. The tools — including the Surescripts Real-Time Prescription Benefit — were integrated into electronic health records in 2019. They will now be evaluated at the Johns Hopkins Health System, Yale School of Medicine and the Froedtert & Medical College of Wisconsin health network.

The United States ranks higher in spending on prescription drugs than any other country in the world, with half of patients reporting that they have not taken a medication because it was too expensive. This year, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services has mandated that providers seeing patients with Medicare Advantage and stand-alone Part D plans use real-time prescription benefit tools in electronic health records during every visit in which the provider orders a prescription in an effort to bring down these costs.

Because these pricing tools are so new, data are lacking on how they are used by health care providers. To help remedy this, the research team plans to study:

  • How and when providers are using the electronic system.
  • Whether this use is associated with prescribers choosing a different drug type or brand for their patients.
  • How the prescribing tool impacts patient spending at the pharmacy and decreases unused prescriptions.
  • How to identify barriers or facilitating factors that enable use of the tools among providers.

Preliminary work by Johns Hopkins investigators has confirmed that the real-time prescription benefit tools provide accurate drug pricing information.

“Our hope is that these tools will enable physicians and patients to engage in conversations regarding medication cost based on their individual prescription benefits at the point of prescribing,” says Woreta. “We believe this will lead to selection of more affordable medications, and thus, increased medication adherence by patients.”

The researchers will focus their analysis on some of the most commonly prescribed drugs in the U.S., including eye drops, statins and diabetes medications.

Woreta is available for interviews.