ARLINGTON, Va. – Nearly half of pharmacists and two-thirds of prescribers report an increase in technology use over the past 18 months, according to a new Surescripts survey. The survey also found the majority of pharmacists and many prescribers believe the responsibilities of care providers, including nurses, physician assistants, physicians, specialists and non-clinical professionals, have increased since COVID-19. While the pandemic put more burden on care providers than ever—with over half of pharmacists reporting increased patient questions in the past 18 months—only 1 in 5 pharmacists felt very prepared to handle their new role.
“These changes put continued pressure on the healthcare system and reinforce the need to address ongoing challenges related to interoperability, prescription costs and provider burnout,” said Tom Skelton, chief executive officer of Surescripts. “The critical next step in the industry is overcoming the barriers to team-based care, including the need for increased information sharing, replacing outdated technology, and the human factor in how care teams communicate.”
Enhanced communication between care providers is critical
Nearly all pharmacists (99%) and prescribers (91%) expect the future of healthcare to be driven by a team-based care model, where communication between care teams is critical. But communication between care providers is still challenging, and there is an urgent need to address interoperability so the industry can realize the benefits of care management and value- based care.
According to the survey, the average prescriber uses their electronic health record (EHR) software to communicate with pharmacists 42% of the time, and pharmacists communicate with prescribers within their pharmacy software more than a third of the time—yet a majority of communication still happens by phone or fax. On average, pharmacists have questions for a prescribing doctor for 22% of prescriptions, and prescribers report that 35% of the questions they receive from pharmacists are about prior authorization and lower-cost alternatives.
Price transparency is critical to address ongoing concerns with prescription costs
A majority of pharmacists (82%) and two-thirds of prescribers say the cost of prescriptions is one of the top three issues facing healthcare today, and 19% of patients report their ability to afford medication has become harder in the past 18 months. According to prescribers, an average of 25% of patients ask for a less expensive medicine, and according to pharmacists, an average of 10% of patients walk away without their medications due to cost. Despite this need, over half of pharmacists (58%) and the majority of prescribers (73%) find it somewhat or very difficult to access a patient’s out-of-pocket costs.
Workflow improvements and operational efficiency are needed to address staffing challenges and burnout
Over half of pharmacists reported an increase in prior authorization requirements in the past 18 months, and a quarter still use fax to process them. More than half of prescribers and pharmacists described following up on prior authorizations as ”very frustrating.” On average, pharmacists spend three hours each week following up on prior authorizations.
“It’s essential that we empower prescribers and pharmacists so they can endure in this moment and prepare for the next major health crisis,” said Andrew Mellin, M.D., Vice President, Chief Medical Information Officer of Surescripts. “While challenges still exist, we have the technology they need to access actionable patient intelligence when and where it’s needed most, so they spend less time on administrative tasks and focus on what matters—their patients.”
Surescripts partnered with PSB Insights to administer a 15-minute online survey to 520 pharmacists, 200 prescribers and 300 patients between June 25 and July 12, 2021. To qualify, pharmacists had to have practiced between 5 and 30 years and currently work full time at a pharmacy; prescribers had to work full time, write at least one prescription per day and spend more than half their time treating patients; and patients had to have filled at least one prescription in the previous six months.
Download the Surescripts data brief here.