Survey Shows Time-to-Fill Delays of Up to 10 Days for Specialty Prescriptions


Survey finds that nearly two-thirds of specialty pharmacists spend more than 15 minutes on the phone to fill 1 prescription, whereas 79% of specialty pharmacists seek additional information from clinicians at least 3 times in an average day.

A survey from Surescripts found that half of specialty pharmacists say the average specialty prescription takes at least 4 days to fill and wait times of 7 to 10 days aren’t uncommon, according to a press release. The 33-question online survey was administered to 414 active specialty pharmacists, with responses collected from February 19 to February 25, 2020.

The survey found that nearly two-thirds of specialty pharmacists report spending more than 15 minutes on the phone to fill 1 prescription, whereas 79% of specialty pharmacists seek additional information from clinicians at least 3 times in an average day.

Cecelia Byers, PharmD, specialty pharmacy clinical product manager at Surescripts, emphasized the need for pharmacists to have quick, easy electronic access to information to ensure patient therapy is not interrupted.

“Specialty pharmacists are critical members of care teams, working to educate patients and help them get started with treatment,” Byers said in the press release. “Because many prescriber offices are closed or have reduced staff due to COVID-19, specialty pharmacists are working on the frontlines to process prior authorizations, dispense and deliver medications, manage drug shortages, and support patients remotely.”

Specialty medications that treat serious and chronic conditions have complex documentation requirements. When combined with a manual prior authorization (PA) process, the result is an overwhelming amount of administrative work that gets in the way of pharmacists spending enough time with patients, according to the press release.

The survey found that 40% of specialty pharmacists say the process is so burdensome that they feel more like an administrator than a pharmacist. Furthermore, 39% of specialty pharmacists say they seek additional information from their clinician counterparts 5 times or more each day.

Due to the administrative burden of specialty medications increasing burnout among care providers, the Surescripts survey found that 71% of specialty pharmacists are somewhat, very, or extremely stressed at work. Additionally, 63% identified PA as a source of stress.

“This survey brings to light the barriers specialty pharmacists face and demonstrates the need for technology to enable better information sharing between prescribers and specialty pharmacists,” said Andrew Mellin, MD, MBA, vice president and chief medical information officer of Surescripts, in the press release. “Specialty pharmacists need ready access to patient clinical information, so they can help patients get on therapy quickly and spend more time on patient care, not administrative tasks.”

According to the survey, most specialty pharmacists agree that an automated system would help, with 86% of specialty pharmacists feeling that getting more complete information from clinicians would improve patient care. Meanwhile, 56% of specialty pharmacists feel that streamlined communication would improve the fulfillment process.


Specialty pharmacists report process delays of up to 10 days to get patients started on treatment [news release]. Arlington, VA; BusinessWire: May 13, 2020. Accessed May 13, 2020.

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