Because of the pandemic, what once was mundane is now risky, like going into a busy pharmacy to pick up a medication. And the too-common occurrence of leaving empty handed due to cost or other complications came with an even more serious risk calculus of returning again later. Many patients had to weigh the benefit of masking up for another trip out into the world when the call came that a more affordable alternative had been identified, or the prior authorization had finally come through. And when weighing all the risks, many made what seemed like the safest choice and just stayed home, delaying their care and potentially experiencing worse outcomes down the road.
The crisis made every moment-to-moment decision count even more. And the issue of medication affordability only gained urgency as working families who lost their income were forced to choose between their needed medications and a trip to the grocery store.
Nearly 33 million people were collecting unemployment benefits as of June 2020, according to data from the U.S. Department of Labor—five times more than the 6.6 million people who were impacted during the Great Recession. And as of March 2021, 9.7 million people were still unemployed.
Now more than ever, getting patients started on their prescriptions as quickly, accurately and cost-effectively as possible is crucial. To do this, we need to free prescribers and pharmacists from the burdens of administrative work and empower them to focus their expertise and resources on patient care.
As an industry, we’re making this possible with more prescribers than ever using technology like Real-Time Prescription Benefit to reduce or eliminate the wait time for patients, improve medication adherence and streamline their communications—effectively lowering the cost of care while boosting both quality and safety.
Here’s the bottom line: Patients need and deserve to know the cost of their medications before it’s time to pay.
And healthcare providers are increasingly sensitive to the fact that their chosen medication only works if patients can access, afford and adhere to it. In 2020, the Surescripts Network Alliance put prescription price transparency to work for more patients, more prescribers and more pharmacists and their staff.
Digital Transformation Accelerated Through Greater Adoption and Use of Real-Time Prescription Benefit
Real-Time Prescription Benefit delivers patient-specific benefit and cost information at both the point of prescribing and dispensing, so that prescribers and pharmacists alike can proactively address cost concerns and more effectively help patients adhere to their medication regimens.
With 95% of U.S. prescribers served by electronic health records (EHRs) enabled for the service, and 82% of U.S. patients covered by contracted health plans and pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs), the impact of increased utilization of Real-Time Prescription Benefit was significant and widespread in 2020.
And for the first time, Real-Time Prescription Benefit became available for pharmacies. Independent pharmacy owner Priyank Patel reported significant results from his three New York pharmacy locations using the solution. He noted that pick-up rates reached nearly 90% (up from 60-70%), and for prescriptions that required resolution of cost concerns, prescription processing time went from 20 minutes to five minutes, a 75% reduction.
But access to cost and coverage information has the biggest impact when it’s part of the initial prescribing conversation. Nearly all patients (94%) who’ve skipped a medication due to cost say they would have been willing to take a lower-cost alternative if their doctor or nurse had suggested one. In response to this need, in 2020, the Surescripts Network Alliance embraced prescription price transparency in a big way. And with average savings of up to $82 on a single prescription, the connection between prescription price transparency and medication affordability is undeniable.