Rising Prescription Volumes Reflect Return of In-Office Doctor Visits

Doctor's Visit

Vital signs are improving for in-office doctor visits after they cratered in 2020.

The latest evidence comes from CVS Health’s Q3 results, which beat analysts’ expectations, based in part on higher prescription volumes — a tell that more people are going to the doctor.

As reported on Wednesday (Nov. 3), CVS has seen its pharmacy volumes normalize compared to a year ago, as pharmacy claims rose 5.3% year over year for a 30-day period during the quarter, not including COVID vaccines.

The outlook builds on optimism that began earlier from a somewhat unlikely source — investors in and landlords of medical office buildings.

The Wall Street Journal reported earlier this year that “landlords have collected more than 95% of what they are owed” from renting physicians, adding that “patients returning to the doctor’s office after in-person visits fell 60% early on in the pandemic, according to a study published by the Commonwealth Fund, a healthcare research foundation.”

As more patients forgo telemedicine for face-to-face sit-downs with their doctors, the payments experience is a relatively new wrinkle that medical practices must also effectively treat.

According to The Payment Cure, a PYMNTS and  CareCredit collaboration, “research found that 33% of patients were aware that they needed to see a healthcare professional or receive medical care, but did not do so. The most frequently cited reason for this was that they were unable to pay for their care: 22% of refraining patients cited this reason as their prime concern.”

Get the study: The Payment Cure

As Prescriptions Rise, So Do Rx Discounting Apps

More prescriptions generated by more live doctor visits are lifting the sector out of its pandemic depths, with millions of consumers opting to use Rx discounting apps.

PYMNTS’ Provider Ranking of Prescription Apps, updated monthly, is a reliable barometer of this activity. The latest edition found that the CVS Caremark app ranked at No. 3 in the top 10 prescription apps, slugging it out with the likes of GoodRx and SingleCare for top scores.

CVS rival Walgreens is seeing similarly sunny skies and responding with prescription rewards. PYMNTS recently reported that “Walgreens in August launched a new credit card rewards program meant to incentivize healthy living choices, rewarding customers not only for purchases made at Walgreens and other merchants, but also for doctors’ appointments, gym memberships and prescriptions.”

See also: Walgreens Launches New Business Segment Focused on Healthcare

Walgreens’ Vice President of Financial Services Maria Smith told Karen Webster that “our loyalty product is really working on how to improve that overall health and wellness piece, and this is a product that will help amplify that for our members.”

In related news, discounting app GoodRx logged a 125% year-over-year increase in subscription revenues, with roughly one million subscribers now using the app to get their meds. GoodRx also provides the Kroger Rx Savings Club for that grocery chain.

More details: GoodRX: Subscriptions Revenue Up 125% YoY, Subscribers Top 1M

Both apps consistently appear in the Top 10 of Provider Ranking of Prescription Apps.

See also: The Provider Ranking of Prescription Apps