Surescripts survey: COVID-19 accelerated tech usage, but there is room for growth

While the majority of pharmacists and prescribers expect the future of health care to be driven by a team-based care model, there is an urgent need to address interoperability needs across the healthcare continuum.
Sandra Levy
Senior Editor
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Amid the pandemic there has been an increase in technology use among pharmacists and prescribers, according to a new Surescripts survey.

The survey found that nearly half of the 520 pharmacists surveyed pharmacists reported an increase in technology use over the past 18 months. The survey also revealed that the majority of pharmacists 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, CEO of Surescripts.

[Read more: Future of pharmacy: Tech and automation experts size up where the industry is headed]

Skelton said that 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industry is overcoming the barriers to team-based care, including the need for increased information sharing, replacing outdated technology, and the human factor in how care teams communicate.

The survey found that nearly all pharmacists (99%) expect the future of health care 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.

A majority of pharmacists (82%) said the cost of prescriptions is one of the top three issues facing health care 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, 58% of pharmacists (58%) find it somewhat or very difficult to access a patient’s out-of-pocket costs.

The survey also revealed that more than 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, Surescripts vice president, chief medical information officer. “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.”