Express Scripts' Accredo is embracing digital specialty pharmacy tools amid COVID-19. Here's how

At Accredo—Express Scripts’ specialty pharmacy subsidiary—the COVID-19 pandemic has revealed significant opportunities to bolster its existing digital tools.

For one, that’s meant being prepared to handle the massive increases in both patients and providers accessing these platforms. Since the middle of March, Accredo has seen average prescription fills per week through its app increase by 47% and online at its website by 37%.

Accredo also reported a 17% hike in physicians signing up to use its digital portal and higher use of the portal’s chat options to avoid unnecessary calls, saving time.

Jim Blondin, senior director of Accredo’s product solutions team, told Fierce Healthcare that shelter-in-place orders made all facets of life more digital, a transition that naturally impacted Accredo’s users as well.

“I think it’s a combination of events that cause lifestyle changes related to COVID,” he said. “That has exposed the opportunity here, and driven more patients and prescribers to the tools.”

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Some of the largest increases have been in patients seeking out telehealth in large numbers. That tracks with broader industry trends, with big names nationwide reporting massive increases in telehealth usage as they’re urged to avoid unnecessary trips to the hospital.

Accredo specifically has seen a fivefold increase in the number of its members accessing telehealth nursing services, which are available to patients in all 50 states.  

For instance, Accredo is helping patients with pulmonary arterial hypertension managed their often-complex medication regimens virtually through the platform. Before the pandemic, patients would likely be briefed on how to take their medications during a hospital visit or by a nurse in a home visit.

Accredo’s nurses can offer that instruction through telehealth instead. Blondin said that the platform existed long before COVID-19, but the pandemic has attracted users who might otherwise have never tried a virtual visit.

“This channel is probably more relevant now, and I think it will continue to be,” he said.

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Docs have also taken an increased interest in electronic medical record connectivity tools, Blondin said. Harnessing the tools can reduce provider downtime as it streamlines the conversation between doctors and pharmacists, especially as staff are thinned due to the pandemic.

Accredo found that, through the platform, it’s been able to eliminate 40% of calls from physicians regarding lost clinical data and process prescriptions two days faster.

Blondin said he believes COVID-19’s digital revolution is here to stay long-term, but perhaps not at quite the volume the industry has seen over the past several months, which is why it’s critical to have robust options for each path patients and physicians may seek out the most.

Further, for those who choose digital tools, they must have the same ability to perform as those who choose to embrace more traditional care models, he said.

“I don’t know that digital is right for everybody. It’s not the right space for some prescribers, it’s not the right path for some patients,” he said. “We need to make sure we have every opportunity to keep our patients and our prescribers in their channel of choice.”