A new tool enables clinicians at OHSU Health to share the cost of medication with their patients as soon as they write the prescription.
Surprisingly, that’s not as straightforward as you might think.
“Patients will ask me, ‘Is it expensive?’ And my answer is usually, ‘That’s difficult to say,’” said Steve Kassakian, M.D., a primary care physician and assistant professor of medicine (general internal medicine and geriatrics), and medical informatics and clinical epidemiology in the OHSU School of Medicine. “Medication costs are really, really challenging. There’s never been an ability for me to see the cost in real-time.”
That is, until now.
Kassakian, who also serves as OHSU’s associate chief health information officer, is overseeing the rollout of a drug pricing component through OHSU Health’s electronic health record software, Epic
Clinicians at OHSU Health now can immediately estimate the cost of a given medication to a patient.
This tool automatically factors in variables like the co-pay, deductibles and need for prior authorization – information that’s readily apparent to dispensing pharmacists but not generally visible to patients until they fill their prescription. In this way, clinicians and patients can quickly compare the price among different drugs with similar effects.
Kassakian said with the tool, he expects clinicians will increasingly gravitate toward drugs that are more affordable for patients.
“Insurers have been using formularies to steer patients to the more affordable and generic drugs for years,” said Peter Graven, Ph.D., assistant professor of health economics in the OHSU-PSU School of Public Health and lead data scientist in Business Intelligence & Advanced Analytics for OHSU. “The problem is that patients are still in the dark about the actual cost until they get it filled at the pharmacy. The patients see it in their deductible and co-pays, and the providers may never find out.”