Research highlights critical barriers that can limit patients' access to medications

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Nearly 70 percent of patients have made personal or financial sacrifices to afford prescribed medications according to new research released by CoverMyMeds, highlighting the impact of one of the most common medication access challenges. The 2020 Medication Access Report, and corresponding Prescription Decision Support, Electronic Prior Authorization, Specialty Patient Support and COVID-19 sub-reports, investigate healthcare barriers that impede access to prescriptions, contribute to increased provider burden and motivate patient consumerism. The report also examines the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on healthcare and assesses how the market is responding to these challenges with tools that inform medication decisions, streamline administrative tasks and support remote healthcare.

Navigating the patient journey can be complex, especially for patients who encounter significant barriers--such as medication cost, clinical requirements and enrollment processes--to obtain their prescription. The complexity of obtaining access to medications can also take a toll on providers who are faced with increasingly burdensome administrative tasks, especially during the pandemic. As a practicing physician, I appreciate the benefits of technology to help streamline many traditionally-manual processes, inform my conversations with patients and support my prescribing decisions."

Eric Weidmann, MD. Chief Medical Officer of eMDs

Key takeaways from the 2020 Medication Access Report include:

  • The COVID-19 pandemic has caused millions of Americans to face healthcare insecurity:
    • As of June 5, 2020, 44 million people -- over a quarter of the U.S. workforce -- had filed for first-time unemployment benefits since March 2020, when much of the U.S. economy began to shut down in response to the pandemic. This is six times the number of claims during the peak of the Great Recession.
    • When asked what medication barriers their patients are experiencing due to COVID-19, 30 percent of providers said their patients are unable to pay for prescriptions.
    • Since the beginning of COVID-19, more than 20 percent of patients said they've used a cash price program to help afford medications.
  • The COVID-19 pandemic fast-tracked adoption of many healthcare technologies, but there is still room for growth.
    • Prior to COVID-19, only 11 percent of patients used telehealth services. Now, 67 percent say they are more likely to use telehealth services moving forward.
    • Despite increased utilization, over 30 percent of providers said lack of integration within EHR and privacy concerns were challenges they faced with telemedicine.
    • 80 percent of providers surveyed listed patients' lack of technology skills as a telemedicine challenge.
  • Many Americans face medication access challenges, such as affordability barriers and manual processes that can delay care:
    • When patients cannot afford their prescriptions, 29 percent admit to abandoning their medications while 52 percent seek affordability options through their physician, a labor-intensive process which creates additional work for the provider and can delay the patient's time to therapy.
    • 55 percent of patients reported delays in time to therapy due to a prescribed medication requiring prior authorization.
    • 82 percent of patients say they spent at least one hour or more making multiple phone calls to track down needed information to begin specialty therapies. As a result of this time-consuming administrative work, nearly one in 10 patients reported waiting eight weeks or more to receive their first dose of therapy.

"The 2020 Medication Access Report uses industry statistics, market research and new survey data to highlight critical barriers that can limit patients' access to medications," said Miranda Gill MSN, RN, NEA-BC, Senior Director, Provider Services and Operations at CoverMyMeds. "The report also highlights important strides in creating innovative solutions that help patients overcome many of these disruptive obstacles. However, there needs to be more widespread adoption and collaboration across the healthcare industry to see the true benefits of these solutions: streamlining inefficiencies which can help improve patients' health outcomes."

The 2020 Medication Access Report is published by CoverMyMeds, part of McKesson Prescription Technology Solutions, with an advisory board of leaders from BestRx, Blue Cross Blue Shield North Carolina, Cerner Corporation, eMDs, Express Scripts, Horizon Government Affairs, Humana, National Alliance of State Pharmacy Associations, National Council for Prescription Drug Programs, National Patient Advocate Foundation, OptumRx, Orsini Healthcare, RelayHealth Pharmacy Solutions, RxCrossroads and University of Virginia Health System.

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