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Writing a New Ending in the Patient Access to Care Story

Patient access to care is at risk as physician shortages persist and hospitals seemingly close every day; supporting pharmacists through technology can help to fill access gaps and keep patients healthy and happy.

Burnout and provider shortages. Patients with one or more chronic conditions. Hospitals closing. Uncertainty.  

These are all phrases that come to mind when thinking about the state of healthcare in America.  

In the US, people age 65+ are expected to reach almost 22 percent of the population by 2040 and this rapidly growing group has significant health concerns. Approximately 85 percent of older adults have at least one chronic health condition, while 60 percent have at least two chronic conditions. Meanwhile, the US may face a shortage of up to 124,000 physicians by 2034. Meanwhile, 30 percent of all rural hospitals are at immediate risk of shutting down due to labor costs and inflation.  

The data paints a grim ending to patient access to care. However, the healthcare industry can rewrite the story by supporting the evolution of care teams across the country. The US healthcare systems needs shared health intelligence aimed at better, safer, less costly care in America.

In a recent report, Surescripts shared data and analysis based on the US population and geography. The analysis showed that nearly half of all US counties--3,233 in total--represent a relative shortage of primary care providers (PCPs), with just one PCP for every 1,500 people. With this knowledge, evolving care teams can fill those gaps.

For example, pharmacists have opportunities to fill gaps in primary care: 61 percent  of counties with a relative PCP shortage also have a high or medium volume of retail pharmacies, with many in rural areas of the Midwest and South.

This new data illustrates a major opportunity to tap into the clinical expertise of pharmacists to address unmet needs in patient care as care teams continue to evolve.  

Pharmacists have commanded the trust of patients for a long time, but it grew even stronger during the pandemic when pharmacists stepped in to deliver quality, accessible care when patients couldn’t get to their PCPs. Recent research has shown:

  • Nine in ten Americans live within five miles of a pharmacy  
  • More than half of licensed pharmacists in the US today are doctors of pharmacy  
  • 77 percent of patients agreed that pharmacists are an integral member of the care team – and seen as trusted care providers
  • 64 percent of Americans agreed that the government should keep in place pandemic-era policies that make it easier for patients to access services from pharmacists and other pharmacy team members, including vaccinations 

Enabling pharmacists with new technology and expanded interoperability that will allow them to go beyond filling prescriptions to filling gaps in care can maintain restored trust and ensure patients have access to better-informed, less costly, comprehensive care—no matter where they live. 

The ink has yet to dry on this page of healthcare in America. There is an opportunity for stakeholders across the industry to act, supporting new policies, payment reform and products needed to finish the story – one in which clinicians are empowered to work collaboratively to provide accessible, affordable, quality healthcare for their patients. 



Surescripts, the nation’s leading health information network, is simplifying health intelligence sharing, with more than 21 billion exchanges of patient information in 2022, making interoperability an everyday reality. Together, we are supporting clinicians to make better-informed care decisions, enhancing patient safety and making it easier to choose more affordable specialty medications that patients can adhere to and start sooner.

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