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.
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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.