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Virginia is just the latest example of a nationwide trend that may surprise you: almost all states allow pharmacists to administer medications in some capacity and allow for collaborative practice agreements.
Our data confirms it: the number of pharmacists on the Surescripts network more than doubled, with a 122% increase, and the number of e-prescriptions issued by pharmacists also increased 47% between 2019 to 2022.
But what else can our data tell us about the state of healthcare nationwide? As we found out, it can tell us a lot:
We dug into the prescribing data to learn that pharmacists are caring for patients with chronic conditions more regularly, filling gaps that exist as primary care provider (PCP) shortages worsen, with just one PCP for every 1,500 people in nearly half of the 3,233 U.S. counties, according to our research.
Since 2019, pharmacists are e-prescribing medications used to treat chronic conditions more than other drug classes. And in 2022, the top three drug classes prescribed by pharmacists included:
Overall, e-prescriptions for these conditions increased 3.6% between 2019 and 2022, but e-prescriptions written by primary care physicians actually decreased 3.5% on average each year during this time period. Growth came primarily from non-physicians and physicians outside primary care.
Pharmacists are indeed stepping up to take on more primary care responsibilities.
It’s also important to note that in counties with relative PCP shortages that have a medium or high pharmacy opportunity, the majority, 41.7%, are independent pharmacies compared with 35.4% being chain pharmacies.
This is a somewhat stark contrast when looking at pharmacies across all counties where 45.9% are chains and 28.5% are independent.
This is a unique opportunity for independent pharmacies as it suggests they are poised with a greater opportunity to fill gaps in primary care, according to our analysis.
There’s mounting evidence that clinicians, including 89% of prescribers and 97% of pharmacists, believe it’s important for the healthcare industry to move to a team-based care model. Combined with PCP shortages, the need for pharmacists to be able to practice at the full extent of their education and training far outpaces the incremental and varied policy shifts to date.
While all 50 states and Washington D.C. have now enabled collaborative practice agreements and six more states now allow pharmacists to prescribe contraceptives, bringing the total to 24 states plus D.C., the specifics of pharmacist prescribing authority can vary wildly by medication type and by state and other challenges persist related to pharmacists being appropriately reimbursed for the care they are providing. According to National Alliance of State Pharmacy Associations (NASPA), 178 bills related to pharmacist scope of practice and payment were introduced in 38 states in 2022.
“These recent policy updates empower pharmacists to help make routine care more accessible to patients across the country,” said Elise M. Barry, MS, CFRE, President of NASPA. “Pharmacists are equipped with the education and training to provide essential care for patients, and we continue to advocate for policies that reinforce pharmacists’ as patient care team collaborators.”
These policy changes are essential, yet they tend to trickle in, state-by-state. To truly realize the benefit pharmacists can bring to patient care, as fully empowered care team collaborators, requires a comprehensive policy shift on a national scale.
Visit the Care Team Evolution page to learn more about how Surescripts is bringing more clinical and cost information into workflows throughout healthcare so that patients get the affordable treatment and full support they need, wherever they seek care.