It’s important to understand how patient, provider and pharmacist responses fluctuate from year to year to better identify care team needs and the medication access challenges many patients face. Further, understanding these needs can help shed light on opportunities for technology to improve care team challenges so they can better improve patient experiences and outcomes.
When we compared survey results from 2020 to 2021, key themes emerged, including greater incidence of medication-related sacrifices from patients, an increase in proactive prior authorization (PA) management from providers and an expanding responsibility list for pharmacists.
What follows are other notable year-over-year trends from our annual patient, pharmacist and provider surveys. To explore more results from the latest surveys, read the 2022 Medication Access Report.
Where we most hoped to see improvements for patients, we didn’t. More patients in 2021 made sacrifices related to their medications in every category surveyed. Over half of patients gave up medications in favor of paying for bills and essentials, skipped bills and essentials to pay for medications or stretched out their prescription, such as cutting pills in half.
For those patients who were able to receive their medication, they most likely faced delays, which affected a wider population than last year. Eighty-two percent of patients faced delays in receiving their medications, compared to 73% last year.
And despite many patients taking action to better afford their medications, sticker shock at the pharmacy counter increased. Seventy-nine percent of patients in the last year went to the pharmacy and found out a prescription cost more than expected — up from 67% last year.
When it came to healthcare decisions, many patients exercised choice and flexibility for their medical appointments. More patients said they had a telehealth visit in the last 12 months compared to 2020, though reasons for these appointments shifted from necessity to convenience. While telehealth use overall has dropped in the industry following the initial COVID-19-prompted shutdowns, it remains a steadily selected option for many patients, especially when it comes to mental health management.
More care teams are finding efficiency in technology
Care teams need efficiency wherever they can find it due to staffing shortages and increased workloads. And, compared to previous years, some are at least finding efficiency in PA management. One in 4 care team members are submitting PA requests at the point of prescribing when their EHR notifies them one is needed. This is an 8-percentage-point increase over 2020, and an increase of 18-percentage points over 2019 provider survey results.
Why does this increase matter? Submitting a PA prospectively, or at the point of prescribing, can free up time for care teams and pharmacists and help patients receive their medications up to two weeks sooner when, compared to retrospective PA submission or submission after the pharmacy or a patient has been notified, a PA request is initiated.1
Pharmacists are assuming broader sets of responsibilities
Because pharmacist roles expanded to include administration of COVID-19 vaccinations from 2020 to 2021, many of the survey questions also shifted to address this shift and new responsibilities. Understandably, when asked about new roles and responsibilities taken on since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, top answers from 2020 included patient follow-up calls (45%) and prescription home delivery programs (41%). Top answers from 2021 included COVID-19 immunizations (77%) and, again, prescription home delivery programs (44%).
This increase in clinical-related services likely impacted the increase in patients who relied on their pharmacists more for certain healthcare-related tasks. In 2020, 27% of patients said they relied more on their pharmacists to provide information regarding their condition and medication. This increased to 37% of patients in 2021. The number of patients who relied more on their pharmacists to explain benefit and payment options for medications also increased, going from 18% in 2020 to 36% in 2021. Finally, 6% of patients in 2020 said they received services unrelated to medications such as immunizations and testing. This increased to 15% of patients in 2021.