When a provider prescribes medication during an office visit, a process is set in motion to get the patient their medication. Often, this process involves a prior authorization (PA) request, especially if it’s for a complex treatment or prescription.
It’s true that PA can be time consuming for providers and pharmacists, but, ultimately, the goal is to improve patient outcomes by making sure they get the right medications without incurring unnecessary additional costs.
Sometimes, though, the traditional PA process requires pharmacists, providers and health plans to exchange a series of phone calls and faxes, which can delay patients from getting their medications. The 2022 Medication Access Report found that 21% of patients experienced a delay in receiving medication over the last 12 months due to PA.
Delays can occur for many reasons, including extended back and forth communication between providers and pharmacists and reliance on phone calls and faxes. Below, we outline common holdups providers, pharmacists and patients may face when PA requests are delayed, and what can be done to help circumvent hurdles delaying patients from beginning therapy.
Seven common reasons PA requests are denied
A PA may be denied for a treatment or medication for many reasons, but some are more common and, fortunately, easier to address. Below are the six most common reasons for PA denials.
Reason 1: Cost management
To help as many patients as possible get the medications they need, including those who need more expensive ones, health plans look for ways to conserve funds. How? Many have substantiation requirements on PA’s that favor less expensive medications that are just effective, like generics.
Reason 2: Questions regarding medical necessity
A PA request is typically required for more costly, complex treatments. Medical necessity applies to clinical situations and is the lens payers use to evaluate whether a treatment meets the generally accepted medical standards for that condition. If the proposed treatment doesn’t meet the threshold for being medically necessary, it won’t be reimbursed by the payer.
Reason 3: Administrative errors
If a provider’s office submits a wrong billing code, misspells a name or makes another clerical error, this can result in a denied PA request.
Reason 4: The requested service or device isn’t covered
This is common for procedures like cosmetic surgery or treatments not approved by the FDA. Another reason can be that a prescribed device isn’t covered by pharmacy benefits, which means that a PA must be submitted to the patient’s medical benefits. For example, while a prescription for insulin may be covered by pharmacy benefits, other items, such as test strips or an insulin pump, could be covered under the patient’s medical benefits. In cases like this, two PAs must be submitted — one to pharmacy benefits and the other to medical benefits.
Reason 5: Missing details
When a PA request has insufficient information about why the medication or treatment is needed, it can be denied.
Reason 6: Procedural errors
For example, a health plan may require a PA request for a particular non-emergency test. If the patient completes the test before it’s been approved, the payer can deny payment — even if the test was really needed.
Reason 7: Patient hasn’t tried and failed other medications
Insurance plans often require providers to have their patients try and fail certain medications or treatments before they approve the next option, which may be more expensive. For example, a patient suffering from migraine headaches may have to show that over-the-counter pain medications like acetaminophen or ibuprofen were tried and didn’t work.
How the right solutions can help overcome PA hurdles and access challenges
Access challenges account for 27% of prescription abandonment. When a patient has to wait longer to get the medication they need, the chances of prescription abandonment can increase and lead to non-adherence and worsening health outcomes or even hospitalization.
For providers, PA is often the most time-consuming part of their day. Of the 1000 providers surveyed, more than half said they don’t have enough time to complete them. This is where having the right solutions in workflow for both providers and pharmacists can make all the difference.
The key here is when the PA request was initiated: prospectively, at the point of prescribing, or retrospectively, at the pharmacy.
Solutions that enable providers to start PA requests prospectively can make the process more efficient and help patients get their medications more quickly than those started at the pharmacy.
Electronic prior authorization solutions also help reduce prescribing errors like incorrect forms or missing fields, which can cause unnecessary delays in the PA process. Technology-enabled hub service solutions can lead to a 25% decrease in average time to therapy. With PA denials, 42% are resolved through electronic payer determinations.
Ideal solutions also proactively address patient access barriers within the prescribers’ electronic workflow, including PA and hub enrollment support. The result? Patients are supported at every step of their medication access journey through automated actions taken to help resolve barriers and increased visibility for their care team.
For more information about the impact of ePA on provider workload and patient access, read the CoverMyMeds’ 2022 Medication Access Report.