Perceptions of prior authorization by use of electronic prior authorization software: A survey of providers in the United States

Stephen G. Salzbrenner, Carrie McAdam-Marx, Maxwell Lydiatt, Brandon Helding, Lawrence M. Scheier, Patricia Wonch Hill

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


BACKGROUND: Given provider, patient, and health plan administrative burden, there is consensus that the medication prior authorization (PA) process needs to be streamlined and standardized. This includes broader adoption of electronic PA (ePA) solutions, including real-time clinical benefit determination. Insight into provider experiences with ePA will help health plans and pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs) prioritize efforts and investments in PA process improvement. OBJECTIVE: To identify provider experiences with PA by their use of ePA technology in a national sample of providers from the United States. METHODS: An online, nationwide survey was sent to licensed providers in 2020. The survey obtained information on provider experiences with PA, including PA workload, time to the communication of a PA decision, and other PA-related interactions with plans/PBMs. Provider characteristics and survey responses by provider use of ePA were compared using analysis of variance tests for items based on ordinal scales and a chi-square test statistic for nominal variables. Multivariable regression analyses identified associations between ePA use and PA experience variables, controlling for provider characteristics. RESULTS: Of 1,147 providers submitting usable surveys, 58% reported personally using ePA for at least some of their PA submissions, 88% submit at least 1 PA in a typical week, and most (82%) spend up to 5 hours a week on PA submissions. A majority (58.5%) reported that manual PA is often required. Those using ePA submitted a higher volume of PAs (P<0.001) and spent more time on PA submissions (P=0.003) than providers not using ePA software, but the duration of time from start to finish for a PA submission did not differ (P=0.211). Providers who use ePA reported more difficulty identifying step therapy requirements (P=0.005) and more frequently needing to submit additional documentation (P=0.022). PA-related communication failures did not differ. Those using ePA reported a shorter time to PA decision (P=0.004) than those not using ePA. Univariate descriptive findings were supported by multivariable analyses. CONCLUSIONS: This large, nationwide survey identified that a provider’s use of ePA was not associated with less provider time or fewer challenges in preparing and submitting PA requests. However, the use of ePA was associated with a reported shorter PA decision time. Efforts to standardize PA requirements, support of real-time benefits check functionality, and better integration of ePA processes into provider workflows may help reduce PA burden and treatment delays.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1121-1128
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Managed Care and Specialty Pharmacy
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 2022

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pharmacy
  • Pharmaceutical Science
  • Health Policy


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