Three steps for improving efficiencies around specialty prescribing, dispensing

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Three steps for improving efficiencies around specialty prescribing, dispensing

By Kathy Lewis, Surescripts - 11/08/2019

From cancer to rheumatoid arthritis and multiple sclerosis to diabetes, complex, chronic illnesses are on the rise. Did you know that nearly half of all Americans (45%) now suffer from at least one chronic disease? That’s a staggering statistic. What’s even more astonishing is the cost of specialty medications used to treat those conditions. According to a recent report by AARP, in 2017, the average annual retail cost of prescription drug therapy for a single specialty drug was $78,781 per year — almost $20,000 more than the median U.S. household income, which is $60,336. Add to that the inefficiencies, delays and rework required to get patients started on the specialty medications they need, and one thing is clear: something needs to change. 

The good news is that tools and technology exist today and are available within workflows to digitize and streamline the prescribing process, substantively reducing administrative burdens and increasing patient medication adherence.

Here are three steps pharmacists and providers can take together to reduce time to therapy and relieve administrative burden when prescribing specialty medications:

1. Cut down on manual tasks.

Based on interviews with pharmacies, currently only 25% of specialty prescriptions are sent electronically, which means a whopping 75% still are handled manually. 

For prescribers, electronic prescribing means less time filling out paperwork thanks to auto-filled electronic forms and an exchange of information that is automatic, secure and complete. An electronic enrollment form can be triggered when a specialty medication is e-prescribed, enabling automatic retrieval of clinical data such as problems, active medications and allergies from the electronic health record. Automating the referral process and tying it to the specialty script improves accuracy, efficiency and timeliness. The phone- and fax-induced back-and-forth that is so common today is reduced, enabling the pharmacy to dispense the script faster

2. Access the right information at the right time.

Four in 10 prescribers believe that prescribing could be improved if they had the right information at their fingertips — particularly when it comes to drug costs. 

Improving specialty prescribing is possible with the right tools. Prescribers have access to the right information for out-of-pocket costs, availability of lower-cost alternatives and prior authorization requirements, which can significantly reduce the wait time of getting specialty medications into the hands of patients. And if a patient hasn’t talked to the prescriber about cost, pharmacists can access this information within their workflow, enabling them to discuss alternatives and/or savings programs faster, freeing them up to provide face-to-face patient counsel. 

3. Get it right the first time.

When prescribers encounter barriers to prescribing, roughly two-thirds change or reroute their orders, causing a delay in patients being able to access their medication. When they don’t have the information and they’re unable to input it correctly or completely, the pharmacist has to fill in the blanks, which wastes time and takes clinicians away from treating patients. However, when the prescriber makes an informed care decision by accessing eligibility and formulary information, cost details, therapeutic alternatives and clinical history, the pharmacist receives the correct information. Pharmacists can then fill the prescription quickly and communicate with the patient about administering therapy.

Technology has enabled 24/7 communication across many industries, but in health care, the specialty prescribing process has not yet achieved its full potential. Across the prescriber, specialty pharmacy and hub ecosystem, interoperability remains the root of the problem, causing redundancies in communication and work. By further deploying technology at the point of prescribing and in pharmacies, we can enable better care communication and, thus, result in improved, more effective patient care.

Kathy Lewis is the director of product innovation at Surescripts.

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