ASHP survey of specialized pharmacies highlights concerns about access to payers’ networks and interest in serving new populations

The American Society of Health-System Pharmacists (ASHP) first annual survey of health system specialty pharmacies (HSSP) provided insight into the concerns of specialty pharmacists and allowed professionals in the field to describe a potential future for specialized pharmacy. Presented at the 2021 ASHP Specialty Pharmacy conference, the survey results indicated concerns about reimbursement, pride in patient satisfaction, and an interest in serving new populations.

The survey, launched in September 2020, was created to collect information on the state of specialty pharmacy practice in hospitals and health systems. It received responses from 114 unique organizations, including pharmacy directors and pharmacy directors of organizations that may have a specialty pharmacy, leaders of other specialty pharmacy organizations, and all ASHP members.

Respondents were asked to rate potential areas of growth opportunity on a scale of 1 to 4, with 1 representing low opportunity and 4 representing high opportunity.

“New Populations to Serve” was consistently ranked as the highest area of ​​opportunity by participants, with an average score of 3.08 on the scale. The responses also indicate that the service of new therapeutic categories (2.96), direct contracts with employers and manufacturers (2.8) and patient engagement through telehealth technologies (2.71) are considered to be areas with the highest growth potential.

When asked to select their top 3 challenges over the coming year, 82.9% of respondents indicated that access to payor networks was a top concern. Frequently cited concerns also included changes to the 340B drug pricing program (42.9%), reduced payers reimbursement (40%), and access to limited distribution drugs (34.3%).

“There has been a lot of talk at the federal level about changing the 340B program,” said Craig A. Pedersen, PhD, RPh, FAPhA, FASHP, director of pharmacy at Virginia Mason Medical Center and session presenter, during of the session. “And that has clearly spilled over to specialist pharmacies in health systems who are concerned about it.”

Survey participants also indicated their highest priority areas for improvement, with payor contracts ranking first at 60%. Other priority areas included improving clinical outcomes (38.1%), access to drugs with limited distribution (34.3%), reporting capabilities (32.4%), and obtaining or maintenance of accreditation (24.8%).

Responses to the survey also indicated a high level of confidence in patient satisfaction, with 89.5% of respondents indicating that “patient satisfaction and level of service” was a major point of pride. Access to medications and affordable shipping (40%), demonstrating the value of specialty pharmacy services (38.1%), and pharmacists integrated into specialty clinics also top the list. Lowest on the list were contracts with payers (3.8%), infusion services (1.9%), and patient engagement through telehealth (1%).


JoAnn Stubbings, Craig A. Pedersen. Results of the national ASHP survey – Specialized pharmacy of the health system. Presented at: 2021 ASHP Specialty Pharmacy Conference; July 14, 2021; virtual.

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