Arlington, Va.– May 9, 2023 – As the COVID-19 Pandemic Public Health Emergency expires on May 11, 2023, Surescripts, the nation’s leading health information network, calls on the industry to make pharmacists a permanent part of patient care teams.
“The COVID-19 pandemic forced changes across the U.S. healthcare system practically overnight,” said Frank Harvey, Chief Executive Officer of Surescripts. “As we return to life ‘before COVID,’ instead of rolling back pandemic-era policies, we should consider maintaining changes that created efficiencies or improved patient access to care.”
Community pharmacists in particular saw expanded authority to administer vaccines and certain tests and conduct limited prescribing. By the end of 2022, pharmacy teams were administering two of every three COVID-19 vaccinations.
“Pharmacists will retain many aspects of their roles as clinical care providers until the end of 2024, beyond the expiration of the public health emergency,” Harvey explained. “But instead of reverting to life as it was pre-COVID, we should evaluate the benefit of making some changes permanent.”
Burnout is pushing 1 in 5 physicians and 2 in 5 nurses to leave their practice within two years. 66% of U.S. hospital and health system leaders reported running their facilities at less than full capacity because of staffing shortages. And 30% of all rural hospitals are at immediate risk of shutting down.
With nine in ten Americans living within five miles of a pharmacy, 77% of patients agree that pharmacists are integral members of the care team. In fact, a majority of Americans agree that some COVID-19 public health emergency policies that make it easier for patients to access healthcare from pharmacists and other pharmacy team members – including vaccinations—should be made permanent.
According to new data from Surescripts, 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, and 61% of those counties have a high volume of retail pharmacy locations that could help expand access to primary care.
“The expanded authority community pharmacists were given to administer vaccines, limited testing and expanded access to quality care for patients--especially in rural communities--is one change that many Americans agree should continue. But more changes to policy, technology and payment models are needed to ensure pharmacists are equipped to effectively compliment the care delivered by primary care providers and we are committed to advancing the technology and interoperability that will support evolving care teams across the country,” added Harvey.