Healthy Communities

Innovating Health Care

11.15.19

How a Trusted Partnership Helped One Type 2 Patient Live Healthier

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11.15.19
A photo of a scale on wooden floor.

When Regina Wu first met Kenneth, she asked him about his diet and exercise — as CVS Health pharmacists routinely do with their patients. Kenneth, a 77-year-old man with diabetes and a sweet tooth who once weighed 286 pounds, said he often drank a liter of soda per day.

Regina immediately sensed a red flag.

“I know that soda is something people can become addicted to in a way,” she says. “It’s caffeinated, high in sugar, and people start to crave a soda fix. And soda is a big problem for blood sugar control.”

Research shows drinking sugary beverages like soda every day could increase a person’s risk of developing type 2 diabetes by 26 percent. For those already diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, soda consumption can hamper their efforts to keep their blood sugar at an acceptable level.

That certainly was the case with Kenneth. He took his medications diligently, but his A1C reading was 10.1 percent. A normal A1C is less than 5.7 percent, and the goal for type 2 diabetes patients is to keep their A1C levels below 7 percent. Kenneth was struggling enough with his blood sugar that his doctor increased his insulin dosages.

Losing weight and changing eating habits can be challenging if the problem seems large and insurmountable. Regina saw an opportunity to focus on a small, manageable change: reduce Kenneth’s soda intake.

It’s these kinds of interactions that CVS Health had in mind when we created our Medication Therapy Management program. The program is designed to allow CVS pharmacists to engage one-on-one with patients, identifying any barriers in their treatment, recommending lifestyle changes, and creating an ongoing dialogue to ensure that patients are taking their medication and getting the follow-up care they need.

Regina and her colleagues frequently work with type 2 diabetes patients: Approximately 1 in 10 Americans — or about 30 million people — have type 2 diabetes, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. While the disease typically surfaces in people over age 45, young adults, teens and children are increasingly being diagnosed.

Regina spoke every few months with Kenneth, urging him to drink even just one less can of soda. Then, in 2018, Kenneth was hospitalized with an infection, and he was hospitalized a second time about a year later. After Kenneth came home from the hospital, he cut back to two Diet Cokes a day. By May 2019, his A1C reading was 8.6 percent, much closer to his target level, and he now weighs 240 pounds. He’s on a 50-gram-carbohydrates per day diet, walks more often, his blood pressure levels have improved and his medication dosages have been reduced. He has kicked the soda habit completely, and has become an advocate among his family members to minimize soda drinking.

“I see the pharmacist as part of the care engagement team,” Regina says. “It really takes a village and the pharmacist is someone patients can talk to in between doctor visits or after hospital discharge. They get to know me, I get to know them, and it becomes a friendship, and with that trust, we talk about how to make small changes that can add up.”

To learn more about our enterprise-wide approach to diabetes management and care, visit our Managing Diabetes with CVS Health page.

To stay informed about the latest updates and innovations from CVS Health, register for content alerts and our Leaders in Care newsletter.

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Milken Institute Facilitates Meaningful Discussion on the Social Determinants of Health

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11.13.19

Research shows that your environment can be more important than your genetic code when it comes to improving your health. In fact, 60 percent of our life expectancy is determined by social and environmental factors.

To address this issue, Tom Moriarty, chief policy and external affairs officer, and general counsel at CVS Health, recently joined a panel discussion at the Milken Institute Future of Health Summit to discuss how players across the health system can implement solutions that address the personal and financial impact of the social determinants of health, including housing, food and transportation. Moriarty was joined by representatives from the American Public Health Association, BUILD Health Challenge, DC Green and Socially Determined who shared best practices and innovations to tackle the social determinants of health locally.

Health experts hold a panel discussion at the Milken Institute.
CVS Health Chief Policy and External Affairs Officer Tom Moriarty (center right) talks about the ways we’re addressing the factors that impact overall health at the Milken Institute Future of Health Summit.

Below are three key takeaways from the panel discussion.

  • A New Center of Care to Support Patient Needs: Most of our health and well-being happens outside of the doctor’s office – where we live, learn and work. The panel emphasized the importance of understanding the needs of each patient and why local innovations can help address the factors that impact overall health. According to Moriarty, this is where CVS Health can make a difference. Currently, 71 percent of patients live within a five mile radius of a CVS Pharmacy and we utilize our community footprint to expand access to high-quality health services.

  • Improving Local Access to Care is Key: Consider, for example, that 40 percent of physician-ordered lab tests aren’t completed – oftentimes as a result of facilities not having extended hours and the patient lacking access to public transportation to the facilities. According to Moriarty, our MinuteClinic offering can help fill this gap in care. Our extended hours and broad community reach increase access to care. Data shows that up to 50 percent of patients who visit a MinuteClinic don’t have a primary care provider. Furthermore, patients visit on nights and weekends – when other sites of care are closed.

  • Public-Private Partnerships Deliver Value: Panelists agreed that housing and food insecurity have the greatest impact on community health and well-being and additional support is needed for vulnerable patients. To meet these needs, the panel highlighted the value and promise of collaboration across the government, nonprofit and private sectors. Moriarty shared the example of how CVS Health is helping to improve access to safe housing in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. We recently contributed $4 million to the Inglis Methodist Gardens project to support the development of a four-story, 47-unit apartment building in West Philadelphia – serving a mixed population of long-term care recipients and people at risk for homelessness.

For more information about CVS Health’s efforts to improve care across the nation, visit our News & Insights page and the CVS Health Impact Dashboard. To stay informed about the latest updates and innovations from CVS Health, register for content alerts and our Leaders in Care newsletter.

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Everyday Steps Are Critical for Managing Diabetes

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11.04.19
A woman receiving a blood pressure check.

Donna Castillo was running her usual errands when she stopped by her neighborhood CVS Pharmacy in Anaheim, California, to pick up her new type 2 diabetes medication. She wound up walking unexpectedly into a free health screening event – and didn’t hesitate to take advantage.

The 57-year old former hairdresser, who also suffers from rheumatoid arthritis in her hands and who lives on disability, understands the importance of taking small, everyday steps to manage her health.

“People tend to ignore things,” she says, “but I've learned how the little things matter.” In addition to taking medication, Castillo says living with type 2 diabetes has taught her to carefully monitor her diet. She makes sure to eat breakfast every morning and that her breakfasts always include protein. “Birthday parties are the hardest with all that cake,” she says. “I just take a little piece. I have to be really careful about my sugar.”

The Project Health screening event taking place that day was one of 93 community health fairs across the greater Los Angeles region from September through December, with nearly 600 total events in CVS Pharmacy locations across the country. The free screenings monitor such vitals as blood pressure, blood sugar, and body mass index. CVS Health practitioners also offer advice on how to quit smoking, and give referrals to nearby primary care doctors and other resources.

Since it began in 2006, Project Health has delivered more than $127 million in free health care services to nearly 1.7 million people in multicultural communities with a large number of uninsured or underinsured Americans.

These screenings are particularly critical for people with chronic conditions, like diabetes, which can trigger other health problems such as heart disease and stroke if not monitored and maintained.

Castillo is very familiar with the risks. She was diagnosed around age 50, and the condition runs on both sides of her family, although she is relieved her three grown sons have all tested negative. She stopped by CVS that day to pick up a new medication her doctor had recently prescribed, canagliflozin, which she now takes in addition to daily doses of Metformin.

Type 2 diabetes affects one in 10 Americans, or about 30 million people, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. While the disease typically surfaces in people over age 45, young adults, teens and children are increasingly being diagnosed.

Nurse Practitioner Elsie Parra, who was onsite at the Anaheim CVS to provide screening tests, has been with Project Health for the past five years, and says too often, patients don’t know they have symptoms that could be red flags for serious health conditions.

“Diabetes, blood pressure, and high cholesterol are all silent killers,” says Parra. “These community screenings are a convenient way for patients to get a fast check-up without an appointment or feels the nervousness some might have when going to a doctor’s office.”

To learn more about our enterprise-wide approach to diabetes management and care, visit our Managing Diabetes with CVS Health page.

To stay informed about the latest updates and innovations from CVS Health, register for content alerts and our Leaders in Care newsletter.

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Developing Bilingual Pharmacists to Break Down Barriers

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10.31.19
A Hispanic pharmacist fills a prescription.

Ashley Mendez’s family fled Cuba in the wake of Fidel Castro’s rise to power and settled in Miami, rebuilding their life from scratch — with little money, few possessions and no ability to speak English.

Watching her family, Ashley understood from a young age how difficult even the simplest tasks could be when you didn’t speak the same language as everyone else. That was particularly true for health care: Ashley and her family believe her grandmother’s death may have been caused in part by miscommunication over the painkiller she was taking for a pinched nerve.

So when it came time to choose a career, Ashley knew exactly what she wanted to do — and where she wanted to do it. She wanted to be a pharmacist and she wanted to work somewhere she could help people who didn’t speak English.

It was the way she could honor her grandmother.

“She was one of the most influential people in my life,” says Ashley. “If we had known more about what was going on, we could have helped her.”

There are many different barriers that prevent people from getting the health care they need: They may live in an area without the right providers, they may lack the transportation to travel to the right facility, they may not have enough money to afford the right treatment.

But one critical barrier that frequently gets overlooked is the language barrier.

According to the U.S. Census Department, the number of residents who speak Spanish at home has skyrocketed 130 percent since 1990, up to about 40 million. That increase has created an overwhelming demand for bilingual pharmacists — but the supply has not kept pace. While Hispanics comprise 18 percent of the nation’s population, they account for less than 5 percent of the pharmacist workforce.

Ashley, 27, is part of CVS Health’s effort to close the gap. She spent the summer of 2017 in an immersive internship program that seeks to help develop bilingual pharmacists. Interns spend 10 weeks shadowing pharmacists who are fluent in Spanish and participating in the care of Spanish-speaking patients. They learn medical terminology, study diseases prevalent in the Hispanic community, and become familiar with the over-the-counter products most popular among Hispanic customers.

The program is an illustration of the company’s belief that you can’t build healthy communities unless you have a workforce that reflects those communities.

“People are looking for a pharmacist they feel comfortable talking to,” says Alex Acuna, 26, another intern in the program, who attended the University of Texas at Austin.

Alex grew up in an El Paso neighborhood that was 80 percent Latino, and in a household where his mother regularly spoke Spanish. But although he could speak a fair amount of Spanish himself, communicating technical details to his Spanish-speaking customers was difficult. Nuances were being lost in translation. In normal conversation, those nuances could be insignificant. When talking about treatments and medication, they could be critical.

Alex knew he had to learn “pharmacy Spanish,” as he described it.

“When was first starting, my Spanish was a little broken,” he says.  “Saying something a certain way could mean something different to a patient.”

The internship program is one of several efforts from CVS Health to address the language gap. Last year, CVS Health gave the Roseman University College of Pharmacy $25,000 to fund Hispanic recruitment and outreach initiatives and establish a pipeline of Spanish-speaking students.

Alex, who earned his license in May, is working now back in his hometown of El Paso. He says he’s grateful to be able to give back to the community that raised him.

Ashley, who attended Florida State University as an undergraduate and studied pharmacy at Mercer University in Atlanta, says she’d love to go back to Miami, where she grew up and where she served her internship.

But she also knows that in Florida, she’ll be one among many Spanish speakers — and that she might do more for the Latino community by staying where she is now.

“There’s a need for Spanish speakers in Atlanta,” she says. “You can tell that the language barrier is a big issue.”

For more information about CVS Health’s efforts to improve care across the nation, visit our News & Insights page and the CVS Health Impact Dashboard. To stay informed about the latest updates and innovations from CVS Health, register for content alerts and our Leaders in Care newsletter.

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Rewriting Their Stories: Collaborative Treatment for Trafficking Victims

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10.25.19

Utilizing the resources of our combined companies, our commitment to improving health community by community includes everything from free neighborhood health clinics to the difficult, personal issues of treating addiction.

In Arizona, it involves going into communities dealing with the growing epidemic of human trafficking through a public-private effort that involves Mercy Care, a Medicaid managed care organization managed by Aetna, as well as the Phoenix Police Department and other social services programs.

In the video above, learn how a holistic, first-of-its-kind treatment program, the Maricopa County Child Sex Trafficking Collaborative, is working with multiple health care partners to get victims off the street and on a path to better health.

As Skye Steel, CEO of Street Light USA says in the video: “Children who have been trafficked can recover. It does take a lot of time, a lot of people, a lot of energy, a lot of love…but their story can be rewritten.”

For more information about CVS Health’s efforts to improve care across the nation, visit our News & Insights page and the CVS Health Impact Dashboard. To stay informed about the latest updates and innovations from CVS Health, register for content alerts and our Leaders in Care newsletter.

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Free Screenings, Helpful Advice and a Visit from Pro Athletes at Project Health

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10.15.19
A customer receives a free health screening.
This Project Health event in Atlanta was one of nearly 600 targeting underserved communities.
A customer receiving a free health screening.
More than 87 percent of patients who attend Project Health events report following-up with their primary care physician.
A CVS Pharmacy store with Project Health sign.
Nearly 600 Project Health free health screenings were held in CVS store locations across the country.

Jean Peterson dropped by the City Line Avenue CVS Pharmacy in West Philadelphia to pick up pictures she’d dropped off at the photo department. Moments later, she also came away with a better picture of her own health — and the chance to snap a selfie with two local heroes: former Villanova basketball star Donte DiVincenzo and state Rep. Morgan Cephas.

Peterson had happened upon one of the many free screenings that CVS Health is offering across the country. During the next four months, nearly 600 Project Health events will take place in multicultural communities with a large number of uninsured or underinsured Americans. At each event, participants receive on-the-spot assessments of weight, blood pressure, blood glucose and cholesterol levels – tests that can help detect risk for chronic conditions such diabetes, hypertension, and heart disease.

Since its founding in 2006, Project Health’s free health and wellness screenings have delivered more than $127 million in free health care services to nearly 1.7 million Americans.

One of those Americans was Peterson. The 70-year-old retired nurse learned that her blood sugar was a bit high, most likely due to medications she was given after a recent back surgery. “I always take advantage of things like this,” she said. “It doesn’t hurt and it keeps me in touch with what I need to take care of.”

Know Your Numbers

Sometimes, the people who think they need the testing the least are the ones who benefit the most.

Brenda, a screener technician at the Project Health event in the Kendall neighborhood of Miami, said a lot of very fit people come in to be screened, usually because they want to know their BMI. But other tests are just as important. One of her patients was diagnosed with high blood pressure.

“The guy said, ‘I’m very fit, I go to the gym and stuff like that, I train people, too,’” said Brenda, who is applying to medical school. But they tested him three more times – once manually – and the results were the same. “And the doctor was like, ‘Hey, you need to go to your doctor and follow up. Please.’ We were very shocked. He looked extremely healthy, very muscular.”

Speaking Their Language

Many of our Miami stores sit in Hispanic neighborhoods, emphasizing the importance of having bilingual screeners, says Elena Ferrales, a health screening manager for Project Health.

Cristina, a young mother, wheeled her seven-month-old into the Miami store and signed up to have a screening while her baby slept in the stroller. She had diabetes while she was pregnant, and though her levels have gone down, she tries to check them regularly. After her screening, she sat with the doctor and, conversing in both English and Spanish, they discussed her results and he gave her food recommendations.

Later, a similar conversation with an older man was conducted entirely in Spanish.

A Slam Dunk for Health

As much as anyone, professional athletes understand the importance of good health. They also understand that it’s not always easy for people to access the care they need to achieve it.

“If I wake up feeling something is wrong, I know there’s a handful of people ready to check me out,” says Donte DiVincenzo, a two-time NCAA basketball champ with the Villanova Wildcats, now a point guard with the Milwaukee Bucks. “But I shouldn’t get special treatment just because I’m a pro athlete. Everyone should have these resources.”

A handful of athletes were featured speakers at Project Health events. In addition to DiVincenzo, who appeared in Philadelphia, Los Angeles Clippers forward Mfiondu Kabengele spoke in Anaheim and Heat player Bam Adebayo attended the Miami event.

Kabengele says he learned during his first year with the NBA the importance of undergoing regular checkups. Small everyday steps, he says, can add up.

“When you have poor health, everything dumbs down,” he says. “When you're healthy, your motor is good. Preventive care is a reality check to make improvements.”

Being good sports, the athletes joined the customers to be screened. Adebayo – a player for the Heat – noted how easy it was to get screened inside the store.

“You don’t have the anxiety, you don’t have to have an appointment, you don’t need to be there at 8, the anxiety of waiting around, what if something is wrong with me?” he said. “You just walk in, get it, see how it goes.”

Access for All

Morgan Cephas, a track and field star at Central High School in Philadelphia and now a Pennsylvania state representative, knows the importance of health care from the perspective of both an athlete and a policymaker. As vice chair of the House Democrats’ Women’s Health Caucus, she noted that 10 percent of those in her district are uninsured or underinsured.

“Not everyone is the daughter or cousin or friend of a state representative,” she said. “They shouldn’t have to choose between managing their health and keeping a roof over their heads.”

An Immediate Impact

What happens after the screenings is up to the individual. But for one participant, the consultation had an immediate impact.

Zita James, 68, had been on her way to the nearby coffee shop when she noticed signs outside for the free screenings at the Philadelphia location. After her detour to CVS, she chose to make a positive change to her health.

“It stopped me going next door and getting two jelly doughnuts!” she laughed.

For more information about CVS Health’s efforts to improve care across the nation, visit our News & Insights page and the CVS Health Impact Dashboard. To stay informed about the latest updates and innovations from CVS Health, register for content alerts and our Leaders in Care newsletter.

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A Lifelong Struggle, a Tearful Reconciliation

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10.10.19

In the year since Jeff Balek began working for the Guardian Angels program, where he reaches out to Aetna members who have survived an opioid-related overdose to connect them with support and resources, Balek estimates he has spoken to hundreds of people who nearly died from an opioid overdose, and he has heard hundreds of heart-wrenching stories.

A counselor talking on the phone.
Jeff Balek, a Guardian Angels program clinical lead, works one-on-one with members recently released from the ER following an overdose.

But one story stands seared in his memory above the others: A man in his 40s named Kevin, who struggled with addiction for most his life and was now sober for the first time in decades, whose greatest wish was to try to rectify his greatest regret — his estranged relationship with his mother.

The problem was that he had no idea how to find her. Or whether she even wanted to see him. He searched desperately for six months to locate her, and when he did, the news was staggering. She was living out her final days in hospice care, more than a thousand miles away in Florida.

Could he find the money to arrange the trip? Could he get there in time? And, most importantly: Would she welcome him if he did?

“All I want is to at least have a chance to make things right,” he told Jeff.

Closing the Gap Between Overdose and Much-Needed Treatment and Support

Kevin’s story is a poignant example of the devastation that opioids can wreak on a family, but also of the redemptive opportunities for people who seek and receive help.

Those opportunities are why Aetna launched the Guardian Angels program as pilot in 2018. The company’s data showed hundreds of people were visiting emergency rooms each month with opioid-related overdoses. They all had complex needs for treatment and recovery, but the ER doctors’ job was limited to helping them survive an overdose. Once they survived, they were on their own again. It was like being treated for frostbite but then sent back outside into frigid temperatures. Without a coat.

Guardian Angels is part of our company-wide commitment to help address the abuse and misuse of prescription opioids, which includes everything from a safe medication disposal program in Ohio to Pharmacists Teach, an outreach program that’s reached more than 450,000 students and parents since 2015.

“We noticed patients would be discharged with minimal ongoing support,” says Daniel Knecht, MD, Aetna’s vice president of health strategy and innovation.

The Guardian Angels program was designed to close that gap. Clinicians who specialize in addiction recovery call members after they’ve been discharged to lend support, to offer education, and to connect them to community resources.

To date, the program has helped more than 600 members and their families, and the Guardian Angels staff has gone from a single person to two — Balek works alongside clinician Ramona Zarate — and is looking to expand again.

“We reach out when the individual is most needing help and most susceptible to intervention,” Balek says. “They had a near-death experience. Their defenses are broken down. They’re on the brink of emotional deterioration.”

“Talking about substance use is difficult,” Zarate says. “It’s important to give the person a safe space to discuss their experiences, their fears and their hopes for the future.”

There is no shortage of need. More than 70,000 people in the United States in 2017 died from drug overdoses, and that number continues to grow. Balek estimates that he and Zarate each talk to as many as 10 people a day. Outreach and perseverance are key; it sometimes takes up to eight calls just to reach someone.

Once the connection is made, the angels’ conversations with the members can stretch for months. The idea is to continue providing support until the patient reaches what they call “early remission,” which usually takes about three months. But Balek says he never cuts anyone off. As long as they’re willing to talk, he’s willing to listen. There’s always a goodbye, eventually, but Balek wants to make sure it’s “goodbye for a good reason.”

A Second Chance

In Kevin’s case, Balek stayed in touch for almost a year, as he struggled with facing the pain of his estrangement, as he searched for his mother, and as he wrestled with doubts about whether to approach her.

In the end, with Balek’s help and support, Kevin took the leap of faith and visited. To his relief, she welcomed him with open arms, glad to see him, and thrilled that he had shed his demons, at least for now. They shared the few good memories they had, back before addiction dug its claws into his life. They shared tears.

“The joy in his voice was incredible,” Balek says.

A few weeks later, Kevin’s mother died.

As he does with most of his patients, Balek eventually lost touch with Kevin. Last he heard, Kevin had found a job and a girlfriend, and had moved to Florida — almost as if he wanted a way to feel closer to his mother, as if her love and acceptance before she died made Florida feel like a safe, welcoming place.

Last Balek heard, Kevin was still sober.

Recently, Balek found notes from his last conversation with Kevin. These were what turned out to be the final words Kevin said to him: “I really didn’t think my Mom would see me doing well again. She got to see me looking good and clear-eyed and smiling. She got to see the real me, who always loved and cared for her.”

For more information about CVS Health’s efforts to improve care across the nation, visit our News & Insights page and the CVS Health Impact Dashboard. To stay informed about the latest updates and innovations from CVS Health, register for content alerts and our Leaders in Care newsletter.

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Convening Local Experts to Address the Social Determinants of Health

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10.09.19
A group of panelists discuss local health solutions.
Panelists at the CVS Health-sponsored POLITICO event discuss the benefit of local health solutions.

CVS Health recently brought together a group of health leaders in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, to explore how local solutions can have a big impact on residents who are grappling with environmental factors that impact health such as housing, education, transportation and food. The event was part of the POLITICO Health Care Innovators series, which CVS Health sponsors.

Following opening remarks from Tom Moriarty, chief policy and external affairs officer, and general counsel at CVS Health, the expert panel discussed how the social determinants of health are fundamentally changing the way we think about health care delivery. Among the experts, there was consensus that we must put patients at the center of their care, utilize a combination of high-tech and high-touch solutions and realize the power of public-private partnerships.

Experts included:

  • Teresa Miller, Secretary, Pennsylvania Department of Human Services

  • Ezekiel Emanuel, MD, PhD, Chair, Department of Medical Ethics and Health Policy, University of Pennsylvania;

  • Katherine Kinsey, PhD, Director, Philadelphia Nurse-Family Partnership; and

  • Katie McPeak, MD, Medical Director of Health Equity, Primary Care Network, Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia

View a video of the full POLITICO Health Care Innovators panel discussion.

Putting Patients at the Center of their Care

Each patient has their own unique health care needs. Oftentimes, those needs are determined by where they live and work. According to Dr. McPeak, “It’s not as simple as screening for social stress among families. We have to create interventions in places where they are already getting care.”

Dr. McPeak further noted that we must understand the intricacies of each patient and be embedded in their community to fully be able to address the factors that are impacting their health. This is where CVS Health can make a difference. We serve as a front door to health care in nearly 10,000 communities nationwide and are utilizing our community footprint to expand access to high-quality health care services.

High-Tech to Enable High-Touch

To maximize the impact of high-tech solutions, such as mobile apps and connected tools, the panelists agreed that they must be matched with personal touchpoints to care. According to Dr. Kinsey, “We’re all very interested in high-tech today, but it is really the relationships that we establish with patients over time that help us address the social determinants of health. We want to be high-touch and use our high-tech tools to better connect with people.”

This type of integration between technology and patient engagement is key to the model of care CVS Health is leading. We’re using technology to support our efforts to provide real-time and trusted counseling on adherence and lifestyle management, increase communication between doctor visits and improve care connectivity.

The Power of Public-Private Partnerships

Partnering with organizations that are on the front lines of addressing the social determinants of health every day is key. According to Secretary Miller, “Health care is a piece of what determines our overall health, but it is just one piece. With our managed care organizations, we’re seeing a handful of really creative partnerships addressing the social determinants of health.” In turn, these partnerships improve outcomes and impact overall health care spending.

Secretary Miller highlighted the Metropolitan Area Neighborhood Nutrition Alliance (MANNA) – an organization providing medically appropriate meals and nutrition counseling to those who are battling life-threatening illnesses – as one example of success. For example, data show that members receiving services from MANNA saw a 30 percent decrease in inpatient admission. Since 2016, we have been proud to support MANNA in its mission to improve access to healthy food.

The panel agreed that housing has the greatest impact on health and well-being and we must do more to support vulnerable patient populations. Aetna Better Health of Pennsylvania recently contributed $4 million to the Inglis Methodist Gardens project to support the development of a four-story, 47-unit apartment building in West Philadelphia – serving a mixed population of long-term care recipients and people at risk for homelessness.

For more information about CVS Health’s efforts to improve care across the nation, visit our News & Insights page and the CVS Health Impact Dashboard. To stay informed about the latest updates and innovations from CVS Health, register for content alerts and our Leaders in Care newsletter.

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POLITICO Partnership Elevates Discussion on Social Determinants of Health

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10.02.19

Tom Moriarty, chief policy and external affairs officer, and general counsel, recently spoke to 100 health care and policy influencers at a POLITICO Live event in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, about the importance of local and personalized solutions in addressing the social determinants of health. The event was part of the Health Care Innovators series, sponsored by CVS Health, which showcases leading voices and practices in health care innovation.

Watch the full remarks here.

Understanding Community Health Care Needs

Most of our health and well-being happens outside of the doctor’s office where we live, learn and work. Furthermore, data show that 60 percent of our life expectancy is determined by factors such as housing, transportation, education and food.

Moriarty noted that these factors underscore why we must understand and analyze how local environments impact health—and the importance of data in the U.S. News & World Report Healthiest Community Rankings. In Philadelphia, nearly one in five residents smoke and more than one-fourth are grappling with obesity. According to Moriarty, our communities are ripe for health care innovation and we have an opportunity to improve health outcomes by creating meaningful touchpoints to care.

Expanding Access to Care Locally

Access remains a key challenge in helping patients manage their conditions. According to Moriarty, community health care access can be defined by two tracks: the availability of primary care and the ability to get to where care is offered.

To demonstrate how CVS Health can address these tracks, Moriarty shared an example of “Diane,” a single mother of two who recently received a diabetes diagnosis. There could be a number of obstacles in her way. First, it may be hard for her to take time off during business hours for appointments. Next, she may face difficulties in getting the testing and labs she needs for diabetes. Research shows 40 percent of physician-ordered lab tests aren’t completed—oftentimes as a result of facilities not having extended hours and the patient lacking access to public transportation to that facility.

According to Moriarty, this is where CVS Health is making a difference. Today, 71 percent of Americans live within five miles of a CVS Pharmacy location. And people come to their pharmacy frequently: whereas a patient with diabetes like “Diane” might only see her physician four to five times a year, she will likely see her pharmacist as many as 18-24 times in the same year.

Moriarty highlighted how we’re utilizing our community footprint to provide timely and targeted interactions with patients like “Diane.” For example:

  • Our MinuteClinic offering is complementary and collaborative to primary care—and helpful to the system overall. We offer treatment for 125 conditions from trusted providers. Furthermore, our extended hours and broad community reach can help address gaps in care.

  • To build on our MinuteClinic services and improve care coordination, we recently piloted HealthHUB—a new, first-of-its-kind concept offering new product categories, digital and on-demand health tools and trusted advice. This concept will be brought to the Philadelphia and Southern New Jersey market in the coming months.

Improving Health Care Affordability

Along with access to care, affordability is a top health care priority for patients. Moriarty emphasized how CVS Health is doing more to help ensure patients get the medications and care they need at the best possible cost.

For example, data show that 40 percent of patients do not pick up their prescriptions when out-of-pocket costs per prescription exceed $200. Moriarty noted that if patients are unable to afford their medications, they get sicker and their care becomes even more expensive. CVS Health has developed solutions to change that.

  • Through our real-time benefits program, we’re providing tools to doctors so they can see what a medicine is going to cost, and recommend lower cost, clinically appropriate options to the patient. More than 100,000 prescribers are using this program—leading to an average of $90 savings per prescription.

  • We’ve also pioneered digital tools, including the Rx Savings Finder, which help our retail pharmacists find patients savings when they do reach the pharmacy counter.

We look forward to continuing to address the social determinants of health in the communities we serve.

For more information about CVS Health’s efforts to improve care across the nation, visit our News & Insights page and the CVS Health Impact Dashboard. To stay informed about the latest updates and innovations from CVS Health, register for content alerts and our Leaders in Care newsletter.

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