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“I had one elderly patient. She’s on a lot of medications. … When I started bringing up the cost, and I recognized the cost, all of a sudden, she almost got a little tearful, because she was like, ‘You mean you understand that it’s hard for me?’”

This is just one experience that Dr. Christopher Apostol, primary care physician at Evans Medical Group in Georgia, recently shared. He added, “and I’ve always understood it was hard for her, but money was just never a part of our conversation [before]. She realized I cared more than she realized.”

Stories like these are what it means when clinicians can help patients access less costly prescriptions. And with better technology and information at their fingertips, the savings have really started to add up. It’s estimated that clinicians connected to Surescripts technology through athenahealth saved patients $1.8 million in prescription costs in 2023.

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Case Study

How athenahealth Uses Real-Time Prescription Benefit to Help Improve Medication Adherence and Reduce Prescription Costs for Patients

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Beyond the savings, it's how these tools are putting the focus back on the relationships between patients and those who care for them and leading to better care that meets patients where they are.

Apostol noted that sharing cost information with patients, “shows that we have some empathy for their financial burden. It doesn’t seem like we’re just haphazardly thinking that they’re millionaires.” Although sometimes a higher-cost medication truly is the best or only option, simply having the conversation can build a better relationship with patients.

The Challenge: Unaffordable Prescription Costs

Medication costs are a challenge for 1 in 4 patients who say it is difficult to afford their prescription. And nearly a quarter also said that they or family member in their household had cut pills in half, skipped doses, or not filled a prescription at all due to cost in the last year, according to a 2022 Kaiser Family Foundation survey.

“It’s a very simple problem. We want to use the most effective drug as well as the most cost-effective—one that the patients can actually afford or get,” Apostol said.

And for clinicians, including 82% of pharmacists and two-thirds of prescribers, the cost of prescriptions is one of the top three issues facing healthcare today, according to a 2021 Surescripts survey.

Without insight into out-of-pocket costs and coverage, prescribers have limited ability to find a lower-cost, therapeutic alternative, causing extra work across the care team.

“When I, as a physician, prescribe something to a patient, how can I ensure that the patient actually picks up that medication and takes it as I prescribe it?” shared Dr. Nele Jessel, Chief Medical Officer at athenahealth. “We [physicians/prescribers] typically did not have insight into the cost of the medication, especially what medications this particular insurance plan has on formulary.”

Better Information, Better Care

In 2023, more than 60% of all e-prescribers on the Surescripts network used Real-Time Prescription Benefit to access patient-specific insights through a single, trusted connection, making it easy to choose the best medication option and swiftly handle (or avoid unnecessary) prior authorizations.

When used to find a less costly therapeutic alternative, prescribers helped save patients an average of $37 per prescription and $785 for specialty medications. That is the opportunity for athenahealth prescribers who now have Surescripts Real-Time Prescription Benefit information available within the prescribing workflow.

“Providers have shared with us that it really facilitates those conversations with patients, and then they see more patients actually taking the medications as prescribed,” Jessel said. That also has an enormous impact on patient satisfaction.

A 2022 American Journal of Medicine study shows that the fill rate for prescriptions informed by Real-Time Prescription Benefit was 8.09 percentage points higher, while the cancellation rate was 5.5 percentage points lower.

By delivering patient-specific insights through a single, trusted connection, Surescripts makes it easy for prescribers to choose the best medication option and swiftly handle (or avoid unnecessary) prior authorizations. Learn more about athenahealth’s experience.

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