Durham, NC — The first question a patient asks about a new prescription today is more likely to be “how much?” than “how to?”. With more healthcare costs than even being transferred to consumers, doctors are expected to be experts on the medicine and the economics of acquiring it.

Researchers at Duke teamed up with the Verilogue to find out just how common these conversations are and how doctors are handling them. The team studied the dialogue between doctor and patient in 1,755 out-patient visits. The sample included people living with breast cancer, depression and rheumatoid arthritis.

The findings: 1:3 visits included conversations about costs. And, in 44% of those conversations, physicians worked with the patient to create cost-saving strategies, some of which significantly changed the plan for care:

  • Logistics, such as switching pharmacies or scheduling tests when deductibles had already been met (23 percent)
  • Switching to a lower-cost therapy or test (22 percent)
  • Using co-pay assistance or drug coupons (21 percent)
  • Switching from a brand name drug to a generic equivalent (7 percent)
  • Free samples of new medication (13 percent)


Financial health literacy is a growing expectation in the exam room. And, increasingly, it’s one new doctors are prepared for. UCLA and other leading medical schools are making it part of the curriculum. In fact, the simple car analogy used in this pop quiz says a lot about just how much there is to learn and how much translation will need to be used along the way.

Why it matters:

  • The Duke study is one your sales training team will want to see. It’s not enough for the front office to know about co-pay and access programs. Conversations are happening in the exam room about costs – the answers have to be there, too.
  • The UCLA program points to how sophisticated some doctors are on cost planning. That’s going to be yet another driver in the value debate we pointed to in our 2016 Health Trends report.

About the Author:

As Managing Director of Innovation and Insights for Syneos Health Communications, Leigh is responsible for building and scaling a global team of healthcare experts who together help life science leaders better understand the complex lives, influences and expectations of their customers. Specifically, they uncover actionable insights that fuel empathy and creativity; lead co-creation events that let marketers learn from peers, trends, and new possibilities; and help clients identify the most valuable and useful new customer experiences to create.

Leigh has worked with Fortune 1000 companies to craft their digital, mobile, social and CRM strategies for nearly 20 years.She’s worked for category-leading agencies in retail, public affairs, B2B technology, and higher education. Prior to moving to Syneos Health Communications, she held several leadership roles at our largest agency, GSW.  There, she founded an innovation practice fueled by the zeitgeist and spearheaded digital and innovation thinking across the business.

Leigh has taken a special interest in complex healthcare products that can change lives in meaningful ways. She was recently a strategic lead on the 3rd largest launch in pharmaceutical history: Tecfidera. Before that she had keys roles with Eli Lilly Oncology, Abbott Nutrition, Amgen Cardiovascular, and Eli Lilly Diabetes.

A critical part of Leigh’s work is trends and new ideas. Every year, she convenes a group of trend watchers from across our global network to identify the shifts most critical to healthcare marketers. This year, she led over 250 experts to experts to focus on the most important changes in the commercial, consumer, marketing, digital and healthcare landscapes. (See reports at trends.health)

Leigh is a sought-after writer and speaker. Recognized as one of the most inspiring people in the pharmaceutical industry by PharmaVoice and Top 10 Innovation Catalysts of 2017 by MM&M, Leigh also was recognized  as a Rising Star by the Healthcare Businesswomen's Association (HBA) for her overt passion, industry thought leadership and significant contributions in new business, strategy and mentoring.