Under intense pressure, the care team is evolving. Primary care shortages are one major driver. The National Center for Health Workforce Analysis projects that the U.S. will face a shortage of 68,020 primary care physicians by 2036. 

To preserve access to primary care for patients, other shifts are necessary. When we surveyed clinicians in 2023, virtually all pharmacists and 89% of non-pharmacist prescribers said that it was important for the industry to move toward team-based care. Today, that team could include not just clinicians within one health system, but doctors, pharmacists, care coordinators and others across care settings and even payer organizations—in short, all those who help keep a patient well. 

E-Prescribing trends by role

When we examine who is joining the Surescripts network, we can see a trend of slowing growth in primary care providers (PCPs), including prescribers in family practice, general practice, internal medicine and pediatrics. Annual growth in e-prescribers among PCPs averaged just 1.7% between 2019 and 2023, compared to 10.0% among non-PCPs (whose e-prescribing adoption accelerated in 2021, in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic).  

At the same time, we see responsibilities shifting across the care team as other types of clinicians take on the work of prescribing—including pharmacists, among whom e-prescribing jumped dramatically in 2023.

2023 NPR e prescribersonthesurescriptsnetwork
2023 NPR roleswithfastestgrowth

Opportunities to address primary care shortages

Access to primary care varies widely by location. In December 2023, 62.9% of U.S. counties had less than one PCP for every 1,500 residents, creating a relative PCP shortage.1 (Among the 3,233 counties in the U.S., 196 had no primary care providers at all.)

However, a majority of counties (65%) with a relative PCP shortage fell into the middle or top third of counties by pharmacy availability. These counties could pose an especially strong opportunity for pharmacists to help relieve primary care shortages—if they have the right technology, policies and payment models supporting them.

2023 NPR countieswithhighmediumopportunity
2023 NPR highest populationcounties

Pharmacies pilot new ways to expand primary care access

One Surescripts Network Alliance participant working to increase access to primary care is Rite Aid, which opened three small-format pharmacies in rural Virginia in April 2023. These stores are part of a Rite Aid pilot program aimed at increasing access to pharmacy services in underserved communities, some of which are experiencing extreme primary care shortages. For example, one location serves Fluvanna County, which had only six PCPs to serve its population of 26,205 in 2023.2

“We’re already making life-changing alterations in people’s lives. We’re able to catch vaccinations that my patients need. We have time to do medication therapy management and improve adherence.”

Ryan Minnich, Pharm.D.
Community Pharmacy Leader, Rite Aid

The 2023 National Progress Report

Better intelligence sharing at scale
Better intelligence sharing at scale
Cutting prescription costs, improving efficiency & elevating adherence
Cutting prescription costs, improving efficiency & elevating adherence
Keeping care teams informed & connected
Keeping care teams informed & connected
  1. PCP shortage analysis based on Surescripts provider directory location data and 2020 U.S. Census population data.
  2. Surescripts, “Changing Care Trends: Map of PCP Shortage Areas,” August 2, 2023.
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