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Arlington, Va. – October 2, 2023 – A growing number of pharmacists are helping care for patients with chronic conditions, according to a new data report from Surescripts® that also highlights an increase in pharmacist e-prescribing for drug classes that include treatments for diabetes, mental health conditions like depression and anxiety and blood thinning medications.
The latest Surescripts data brief, “Pharmacy Availability & Prescribing Patterns Hint at the Future of Primary Care” found that the number of pharmacists on the Surescripts network more than doubled from 2019 to 2022. At the same time, the number of primary care prescribers—including physicians, as well as nurse practitioners and physician assistants working in family practice, internal medicine and pediatrics—increased by just 0.6% a year on average. During the same period, prescribers outside of primary care increased by an average of 12.1% per year.
“As gaps in primary care grow wider, pharmacists have become essential care providers–especially for patients with chronic conditions,” said Frank Harvey, Chief Executive Officer for Surescripts. “Healthcare has an opportunity to catch up by bringing policy and payment structures in line with how patients are accessing primary care and truly empowering pharmacists to deliver care at the top of their education and training and as part of a collaborative care team.”
To date, all 50 states and D.C. have enabled collaborative practice agreements, but the specifics of pharmacist prescribing authority vary by medication type and by state.
“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 National Alliance of State Pharmacy Associations. “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.”
E-prescribing trend data from Surescripts shows that the number of e-prescriptions issued by pharmacists increased 47% between 2019 to 2022, and since 2019, drugs used to treat chronic conditions have consistently topped the list of medications e-prescribed by pharmacists. In 2022, the top three drug classes prescribed by pharmacists included: diabetes mellitus agents or medications to treat diabetes, psychoanaleptics used to treat mental health conditions like depression, anxiety and ADHD, and antithrombotic agents or blood thinning medications. E-prescriptions for diabetes, high cholesterol and hypertension increased 3.6% between 2019 and 2022, but e-prescriptions for these conditions that were issued by primary care physicians decreased 3.5% on average each year.
Surescripts’ new report also shows that independent pharmacies, in particular, have a significant opportunity to help fill primary care gaps. Of the more than 1,600 U.S. counties that have just one primary care provider for every 1,500 people, 61% fell in the upper two-thirds of counties when ranked by their number of pharmacy locations by population. Of these, 41.7% are independent pharmacies, compared to just 28.5% of pharmacy locations in all counties.
“It’s time to use every tool in the toolbox, including existing technology that enables clinical interoperability and intelligence sharing, to ensure patients have access to safe, quality and more affordable healthcare, no matter where they live,” added Harvey.
In a recent survey, 89% of prescribers and 97% of pharmacists agreed that it’s important for the industry to move to team-based care, and 41% of prescribers said it’s very or somewhat important that pharmacists be able to prescribe medication.
To learn more about how pharmacists are leveraging interoperable technology to help fill primary care gaps, visit Surescripts in booth 3635 at HLTH, October 8-11 in Las Vegas.