1089 4 Myth Busters Part 2 IIA Creative Support Feature Final

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Last month, we tackled myths around pharmacists' education and training, and their qualifications to provide clinical care for patients. In the second part of the myth busters series, our pharmacists debunk notions around their role on patient care teams.  

Surescripts Myth Busters: 

Shannon Reidt, Pharm.D., MPH, MS, BCPS, Director of Medication Research and Analytics  

Bri Palowitch, Pharm.D., BCPG, Informatics Clinician 

Meg Murphy, Pharm.D., Pharmacy and Regulatory Affairs Manager 

Myth 3: Clinical care teams sound great, but as the pandemic has waned so has the need for collaborative care. Plus, the technology doesn’t exist for pharmacists and primary care physicians to communicate effectively. 

Fact: Over the last three years, pharmacists demonstrated they could safely and effectively work within the healthcare team to expand access to testing and vaccinations to millions of patients. Pharmacists were also entrusted to prescribe certain treatments following a positive COVID-19 test. But even before the COVID-19 pandemic, pharmacists across the country participated in collaborative practice agreements, which delegate responsibilities such as prescribing medications, stopping medications or ordering labs to monitor medications to pharmacists. 

Technology, like Surescripts Clinical Direct Messaging, connect pharmacists, prescribers and other healthcare professionals, empowering them to reliably send and receive information—such as immunization records—across multiple care collaboration scenarios within their existing workflows.  

In 2022, healthcare organizations and professionals used Surescripts to send 174.8 million clinical messages, an increase of 21.4% over 2021. 

Shannon Reidt: New data tells us that care—especially for chronic conditions—is expanding beyond primary care physicians. Pharmacists are being called upon for their expertise and to provide medication counselling and prescribing in certain circumstances. Moreover, pharmacists are increasingly using technology that can connect clinicians to support patient care as a team. Overall, care is becoming more collaborative and there’s growing promise that pharmacists have a role in expanding patient access to care. 

From 2019 to 2022, the number of pharmacists e-prescribing on the Surescripts network more than doubled. The number of e-prescriptions issued by pharmacists also increased 47%, primarily to treat diabetes, hypertension, depression, anxiety and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).   

Bri Palowitch: We hope to continue leveraging technology and interoperability to alleviate the administrative burdens driving widespread clinician burnout. Ultimately, comprehensive policy and innovations in technology will allow clinicians to restore focus on providing quality, accessible and less costly care for patients—the reason prescribers and pharmacists choose to work in healthcare in the first place. 

Myth 4: Pharmacists are also experiencing burnout and so it doesn’t make sense to expand their responsibilities to deliver more clinical services – even as part of a patient care team.  

Fact: Burnout is a reality for nearly every clinical care provider across healthcare today, pushing 1 in 5 physicians and 2 in 5 nurses to leave their practice within two years and the American Medical Association reports 63% of physicians experiencing at least one symptom of burnout—an all-time high. More than three-quarters of community pharmacies say they are having trouble filling open positions and for 9 in 10 of them, the top challenge is filling pharmacy technician roles. 

A recent Surescripts survey revealed that burnout was a leading concern for both prescribers and pharmacists and 89% of prescribers and 97% of pharmacists agree it's important for the healthcare industry to move toward team-based care. In addition, 78% of prescribers and 92% of pharmacists say the top benefit of pharmacists providing more clinical care is improved patient outcomes. A majority also believe team-based care would decrease the total cost of care. 

While it varies state-to-state, collaborative practice agreements in all 50 states and Washington, D.C., are enabling pharmacists to support primary care providers and fill growing gaps in care across the country. These agreements allow pharmacists to manage patients with complex or chronic diseases, complementing the care plan established by their primary care physicians. The ability for pharmacists to order lab tests as part of medication management counselling or adjust medication regimens for diabetes mellitus, high blood pressure and high cholesterol, are just a couple examples of the benefits these agreements provide.  

Meg Murphy: It’s important to understand that pharmacists have taken on new responsibilities as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, but policy and payment system reforms are greatly needed to sustain the services patients have come to rely on from their community pharmacy. Additionally, access to patient intelligence that would fully enable patient care collaboration remains a challenge on the pharmacy side compared to their primary care provider counterparts. 

Shannon Reidt: According to our research, nearly half of all counties in the United States have relative shortages of primary care providers (PCPs)—just one PCP for every 1,500 people. Our data also showed that there are opportunities for pharmacists to fill gaps in care: 61% of counties with a PCP shortage also have a high volume of retail pharmacies.  

Meg Murphy: While burnout continues to challenge all parts of the healthcare system, industry stakeholders must come together and advance comprehensive policies and payment structures that support pharmacists to continue caring for patients as part of a collaborative team. 

Learn how technology is supporting the evolving care team to deliver better, safer and more affordable patient care nationwide.  

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