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We know that clinicians and healthcare professionals alike are facing challenges – burnout chief among them. But as we look to solutions to curb burnout, we have an opportunity to think bigger and to make sure that the patient is truly at the center as clinical care teams evolve.

Check out the 5 things you need to know from the webinar I recently hosted on Opportunities for Evolving Care Teams to Fill Gaps in Primary Care.

1. Primary Care Is Stretched Thin

Last year, I broke my hand while unpacking holiday boxes and it was going to take 4 months for me to receive a doctor’s appointment. No pun intended, but I experienced first-hand just how overburdened the healthcare system is right now. And I recognize that my experience is not unique.

We’ve watched as burnout among primary care providers (PCPs) has worsened for a long time – but the pandemic highlighted the broader challenges facing the healthcare system – with concerns around patient access to care rising to the top.

Recent Surescripts data confirms why many of us have experienced long delays in getting an appointment with a PCP: there’s fewer than 1 primary care provider for every 1,500 patients in half of the 3,233 counties in the U.S. – with e shortages found in both rural and metropolitan areas.

And it’s likely to get worse with an expected shortage of up to 124,000 physicians by 2023 and 2 in 3 U.S. health systems operating at less than full capacity due to staffing shortages last year.

2. The Silver Tsunami Is Upon Us – Are We Prepared?

As the shortage of PCPs approaches crisis levels, baby boomers are getting older with people age 65+ expected to make up 22% of the U.S. population by 2040 with a larger proportion of older adults living in rural areas. We also know that approximately 85% of older adults have at least one chronic condition and 60% have two – requiring more medical care at a time when a traditional care model is operating at a lower capacity than ever before.

As we think about how to address these burdens on primary care access, we should consider the success of collaborative care agreements and COVID-19 pandemic policies that allowed pharmacists to fill gaps in patients access to care – supporting PCPs as part of a care team.

3. Opportunity Awaits as Care Teams Evolve

In addition to measuring where the gaps in primary care exist, Surescripts data also looks at population and geography to evaluate where there is the greatest opportunity for care teams to evolve – with support from community pharmacists – to fill those gaps. We found that 61% of counties with the relative PCP shortage also have a high volume of community pharmacy locations – representing significant opportunities for pharmacists to step in and address communities' unmet needs.


The pandemic helped patients access primary care services at their local pharmacy – for immunizations, testing and even treating specific conditions. Today, 72% of physicians and nurse practitioners expect to see pharmacists regularly included in multidisciplinary teams that collaborate on patient care and 77% of patients agree that pharmacists are an integral member of the care team.

4. Ensuring Patient Care Remains a Top Priority

Patient care is a priority but without further policy changes, pharmacists will face limitations to becoming a fully-integrated part of the patient care team – risking patient access to essential primary care services.

Policy changes that support this model of care must include reimbursing pharmacists for the expanded services they provide, providing pharmacists with appropriate access to essential patient information and adapting existing technologies to ensure pharmacists are fully equipped to provide care at the full scope of their training and education.

Pharmacists want to provide these primary care services for their patients, complimenting the care plans and treatments recommended by their doctors, and they are trained to do so through extensive education and rigorous certifications. More than half of licensed pharmacists in the U.S. today have a Doctor of Pharmacy (Pharm.D.) degree and they are trusted by patients to provide care close to home. With expertise focused on medication management, they can review patient charts to assess appropriateness of therapies from multiple doctors and help a patient understand why, when and how they should take their medications. Pharmacists can take additional board certifications to specialize in an specific areas.

As mentioned, I ventured into geriatrics and have spent many years completing fall risk assessments based on potentially inappropriate medications, dosages, administration timing and more. Additional assessments that can be conducted in the community include hypertension, diabetes, high cholesterol, osteoporosis, family planning, smoking cessation and more. Never intending to diagnose, we are here to help optimize a patient’s initial treatment regimen and continued monitoring.

5. Technology and Access to the Right Clinical Information Is Essential

As patient care continues to evolve, we are working to advance interoperability that supports each clinician’s specific needs while improving the technologies that exist today.

There’s growing use of Surescripts’ interoperable technology to inform care proactively and in 2022, we saw 823,000 individuals and organizations, including more than 23,000 pharmacies, who use Clinical Direct Messaging for the exchange of health information within electronic workflows.

This is just one example of how existing technology is reducing burdens, streamlining communication between clinicians and improving care team collaboration and coordination. When clinicians have access to the right clinical information they need, they can focus on providing quality, safe and more affordable care for their patients – no matter where they are.

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