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New analysis identifies pharmacists as key to helping address the primary care provider shortage

Chicago, Ill. – April 18, 2023 – Nearly half of all counties in the United States have relative shortages of primary care providers (PCPs), with just one PCP for every 1,500 people, and 61% of those counties also have a high volume of retail pharmacy locations that could help expand access to primary care, according to new data from Surescripts, the nation’s leading health information network.

Read the Surescripts data brief: How Are Care Teams Evolving to Fill Primary Care Gaps? This report will be presented during a panel discussion on Tuesday, April 18 at HIMSS23 in Chicago, Ill.

“This new data illustrates an incredible opportunity to tap into the clinical expertise of our pharmacists as care teams continue to evolve and ensure patients across the country have access to comprehensive care,” said Frank Harvey, Chief Executive Officer of Surescripts. “Pharmacists have commanded the trust of patients for a long time, but this was especially true during the pandemic, when pharmacists helped deliver quality, accessible care when patients couldn’t get to their PCPs.”

The healthcare industry is under intense pressure with many PCPs facing burnout and choosing to leave the industry. It’s predicted that by 2034, the U.S. may face a shortage of up to 124,000 physicians. Meanwhile, 9 in 10 Americans live within five miles of a pharmacy.

“There are opportunities emerging for pharmacists to practice at the full scope of their license, providing care that compliments physicians’ treatment plans and filling gaps in access to care,” explained Dr. Anita Patel, PharmD, vice president, pharmacy services development at Walgreens. “Technology and appropriate patient information will allow pharmacists to provide clinical care, including immunizations, medication counseling and important health screenings, allowing them to serve as effective members of patient care teams, improving healthcare in a different way than before.”

A recent report by Leavitt Partners, Supporting Pharmacy Data Interoperability: An Imperative For Patient Access And Outcomes, identifies 10 actionable steps recommended for stakeholders to overcome challenges and improve data interoperability to improve the delivery of care. This report emphasizes the need for data interoperability that includes pharmacies, so that all care providers, including pharmacists, are better equipped with access to key patient information. This will help ensure they can meaningfully participate in value-based care models, ultimately improving the quality and accessibility of patient care.

Surescripts also identified the top 10 U.S. counties with relative PCP shortages and a high volume of retail pharmacy locations, representing opportunity for the greatest impact on patient access to care.

Top 10 high impact counties

“We are committed to working with Surescripts to address healthcare’s shared challenges with shared health intelligence aimed at better, safer, less costly care,” said Dr. Eric Weidmann. Chief Medical Officer, CGM eMDs/APRIMA. “We need to come together in support of new policies, payment reform and products to successfully expand primary care access for every patient.”

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