Health care’s drug shortage problem projected to incur higher costs

Practitioners should prepare for the possible drug shortage, as well as the higher costs of these supplies.

Health care's problem with drug manufacturers and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is nothing new, but this year it is expected to cost practitioners and patients more money. Widespread shortages on IV saline solutions, anticancer medication and other drugs may drive the market to charge 3 to 5 percent more, according to a report from the American Journal of Health-System Pharmacy.

Currently, the drug shortage problem is costing the industry about $230 million per year. This is a problem outside of accounts receivable services control, but if the prices for treatment, surgery and day procedures continue to grow, more patients won't be able to cover these costs.

Even though Primer Inc. report on the nationwide drug shortage show that delayed care occurred less often in 2013, they found that 90 percent of respondents confirmed a shortage of some sort within the last six months. At this point, pharmacists are in the position to contact the "brown market," which may have the medication they need, but their quality may not be as great as generic brands, they also come with a higher price tag.

"The supply chain is also vulnerable to shortage 'spikes' that significantly disrupt patient care and hospital operations," Premier Inc. CEO Michael Alkire said in a statement about the survey. "To remedy these types of shortages, including one currently affecting the supply of intravenous solutions, we need a 'swat team' mentality by all, including the FDA, the manufacturers, the distribution channel, the [group purchasing organization] and the hospitals."

The FDA's role with the nationwide drug shortage does play a significant factor, where factories are forced to halt operations until the medication is cleared of debris and contamination, but that is only a part of the story. Fact is, the drug industry is a low profit margin industry, USA Today reported. Selling these medications at "very low prices" impacts the manufacturer's ability to continue operations.

"Everything runs on lean, just-in-time production," Erin Fox, director of the University of Utah Drug Information Service, told the source. "This sounds like a great business model, but if there is a glitch, the manufacturers don't suffer — patients do."

What accounts receivable do at this time

In the case that your practice is going through a drug shortage, medical claims management can do their part to keep revenue flowing by clearing up as much backlog as possible. This way, if your facility sees a sudden uptick of patients, more attention can be given to this pertinent population. 

If that is not possible, reach out to Professional Medical Services. These professionals can help contact the patients who have been avoiding your staff for an extended period of time.