Coram Nurses Help Teen Bike across the Country

Bottom of the article
A photo of a teenager at the airport with luggage.
Andrew leaving Boston for his cross-country bike trip.
A photo of a teenager with a nurse, administering an IV infusion.
Coram nurse Melissa Rupert infuses Andrew in Oklahoma City during his trip.

Coram, a CVS specialty business, provides high-quality infusion and tube-feeding care to patients where they live, work and travel. So when 17-year-old Andrew had an opportunity to go on a six-week cycling, cross-country adventure this past summer, his parents knew the Coram nursing team could help.

Andrew has Gaucher disease and receives enzyme replacement home infusions every 2 to 3 weeks. His trip would leave from Massachusetts in June and not return until early August, so he would require infusions along the route. His parents and medical team mapped out the trip and planned for infusions in Oklahoma City and Santa Monica, CA.

Coram nurses worked with Andrew’s primary care team at Boston’s Children’s Hospital to secure connections in the other states who would be willing to help. He needed an in-state physician to write the nursing orders, and a Coram nurse to meet him at a hotel for the infusion. The Coram Oklahoma City and Los Angeles branches ensured Andrew received the specialized care he needed.

Gaucher disease is a rare genetic enzyme deficiency disorder that affects 10,000 to 20,000 Americans, and can largely be controlled with enzyme replacement. Patients experience anemia, low platelet counts, severely enlarged liver and spleen, and bone disease.

Coram’s Vast Nurse Network

“The benefit of working with Coram is that we have more than 38 years of experience providing infusion services to patients,” said Julie Scaramuzzi, Nurse Manager, Infusion. “We meet patients where they are, and Coram has 73 ambulatory infusion suites across the country. Our team helps patients prepare the paperwork to bring liquids through airport security, and secure a nurse and location for the treatment,” she said. Coram has more than 2,000 clinicians who provide care to nearly 200,000 patients annually for a range of complex conditions including immune deficiencies, neurological disorders, digestive diseases and serious infections.

Andrew’s mom, Heidi, connected with Coram to pick up the medication near her home, and with the paperwork in order, boarded planes to Oklahoma and California. She met Andrew and the nurses in the hotels, and Andrew successfully received his treatments on the road. He was able to stay with his biking group for the entire trip.

Julie said “Andrew proves that patients who home-infuse are no longer home-bound. Our team works with many patients who travel for business or even just to see family for the holidays. Our network of nurses is vast and we are able to meet patients where they are, when they need their treatment.”

The Accordant Team Approach for Gaucher Patients

In addition to care from Coram clinicians and nurses, Accordant offers support for members with rare conditions, such as Gaucher disease, through targeted interventions designed to meet each patient’s unique needs.

“The specialized care team is composed of registered nurses, pharmacists, social workers, and a medical director – all backed by a medical advisory board,” Ahmed F. Hassan, Vice President and General Manager, Accordant. “These skilled practitioners set mutually agreed-upon health goals with the patient, discuss symptom management, explain proper use of medications, and even deal with resource issues such as lack of transportation to doctors’ appointments or cost of care.”

The more than 30 physicians on Accordant’s medical advisory board are available to the Accordant team to discuss complex situations and offer insights into care approaches that the nurse may use in supporting the patient. And, all of the team’s care is grounded in the latest evidence-based medicine and clinical guidelines.

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

A photo of a teenager with a nurse, administering an IV infusion.
Hide Media Contacts (Sidebar)
No
Article
Hide Share
Off
"Likes" Count
3
Display Hero
Off

Managing Diabetes

Our integrated, coordinated care approach

CVS Health is harnessing the power of its unmatched community connections and industry-leading data analytics to help people with diabetes better manage their day-to-day symptoms and lead healthier lives.

Our integrated approach is rooted in early detection and personalized, holistic care management, and offers our patients, customers and members an array of products and services that work seamlessly together, while improving access to care that is more local, more affordable and easier to navigate.

In Our Stores

With locations in 10,000 communities nationwide, our CVS Pharmacy stores are uniquely positioned to help patients manage their chronic conditions such as diabetes in between doctor’s visits. Our pharmacists provide one-on-one trusted counsel to patients daily, reviewing prescriptions to ensure patients are getting the most out of their medicines, while the providers in our more than 1,100 MinuteClinic locations offer screenings to monitor a patient’s vital signs and glucose levels.

We carry a wide variety of diabetes care products in our CVS Pharmacy locations to make it easier for patients to manage their condition.

MinuteClinic providers can identify conditions — including diabetes and hypertension — that a patient may not know about and develop an initial treatment plan with appropriate prescriptions and ongoing monitoring and counseling.

And with our new HealthHub® concept, a new, first-of-its-kind community-based store that offers a broader range of health services, new product categories, digital and on-demand health tools and trusted advice along with expanded capabilities in chronic disease care such as diabetes.

In addition, under our Reduced Rx prescription savings program, patients with diabetes can receive their insulin at a reduced cost at any of the more than 67,000 pharmacies in the CVS Caremark retail network, including our CVS Pharmacy locations.

CVS Pharmacy is partnering with the American Diabetes Association on their November #CountMeIn campaign to highlight the numbers that matter most when it comes to those living with, at risk for and supporting those with diabetes. More information can be found at diabetes.org/CountMeInADA.

For Our Members

We launched our Transform Diabetes Care program in 2017 to help simplify condition management and improve outcomes for members of our CVS Caremark pharmacy benefit manager.

The results so far have been significant: More than 50 percent of enrolled members with uncontrolled diabetes have moved to a controlled status by utilizing the solutions offered by the program, including personalized coaching, monitoring at MinuteClinic and CVS Pharmacy, testing supplies and a pharmacist-led clinical team that reviews blood glucose readings.

Learn more about our Transform Diabetes Care program.

Since launching, the program has expanded to identify members at risk for developing diabetes and related conditions.

Additionally, our Pharmacy Advisor program helps our members with chronic conditions like diabetes do a better job of taking their prescription medications through targeted counseling from pharmacists and monitored pharmacy claims to keep members on track with refills.

In the Community

CVS Health provides philanthropic support across the country to fund prevention efforts as well as education for those at risk for or living with diabetes. 

Through our partnership with the National Association of Free & Charitable Clinics (NAFC), the CVS Health Foundation has provided support to 57 clinics across the country to support expanded services to treat those with diabetes and hypertension.

We also bring free health and wellness screenings directly to local communities through our Project Health events. At these events, 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.

CVS Health also supports colleagues who volunteer on behalf of organizations associated with diabetes and also provides sponsorships for events. In 2019, CVS Health has provided over $120,000 to support diabetes organizations.

Find out more about the results of our Morning Consult survey on diabetes care.

Patient stories, features and related content

Display Date

By the Numbers: Improving Diabetes Care

Bottom of the article
A man using diabetic testing equipment.

Diabetes is a costly and complex disease that burdens patients and the broader health care system. Today, more than 100 million U.S. adults are now living with diabetes or prediabetes and estimates show that medical costs for people with diabetes are twice as high as for people who don’t have diabetes.https://www.cdc.gov/media/releases/2017/p0718-diabetes-report.html

In honor of American Diabetes Month, CVS Health recently partnered with Morning Consult to conduct a survey to better understand how people living with diabetes and the providers who deliver diabetes care are grappling with the disease. We also examined what tools and solutions would be most impactful in improving diabetes care.

Among both people living with diabetes and providers, there is a desire to expand access to care locally, better manage and predict out-of-pocket costs and provide additional lifestyle support.

Expanding Access to Diabetes Care

Managing diabetes can be extremely time-consuming and complicated. Oftentimes, patients must visit different sites of care, facilitate multiple annual exams and communicate with various providers across their care team. The survey revealed that both people living with diabetes and providers believe the health care system could do more to expand access to diabetes care and services. For example:

  • A majority (64 percent) of people living with diabetes are not aware of extended hours for diabetes support, while 61 percent of providers do not offer extended hours.

  • The vast majority of people living with diabetes (89 percent) and providers (98 percent) believe that being able to receive testing and exams for diabetes in a single location would be beneficial.

  • Just 18 percent of diabetes patients see their primary care provider once or more a month, while 37 percent report that they see their primary care provider every two to three months and 35 percent report that they see their provider every four to six months.

This is where CVS Health is making a difference. Today, 71 percent of Americans live within five miles of a CVS retail location. And people come to their pharmacy frequently: Whereas a patient with diabetes might only see his or her physician four to five times a year, they will likely see their pharmacist as many as 18–24 times in the same year.

Through these touchpoints to care, we are expanding access to diabetes care locally. For example, our HealthHUB model provides a new, first-of-its-kind community-based store that offer a broader range of health services, new product categories, digital and on-demand health tools and trusted advice. In these locations, people living with diabetes are able to receive the coordinated care and services they need all within our own four walls.

Addressing Diabetes Costs

Cost is top of mind for both people living with diabetes and providers — and there is uncertainty on how to predict the out-of-pocket costs associated with diabetes management. When asked about managing diabetes, nearly half (47 percent) of providers do not feel they have the resources they need to predict out-of-pocket costs for their patients’ diabetes medications. On the other hand, nearly one-third of patients (32 percent) do not feel they have the resources they need to predict their own out-of-pocket costs.

CVS Health is working to expand visibility into drug cost information across multiple points of care. 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. We’ve also pioneered digital tools, including the Rx Savings Finder, which helps our retail pharmacists find patients savings when they do reach the pharmacy counter.

Improving Disease and Lifestyle Management

People living with diabetes and providers would benefit from enhanced lifestyle support to better manage the disease, including nutritional counseling and access to public transportation. For example:

  • People living with diabetes (58 percent) and providers (80 percent) both report they are likely to utilize nutritional counseling services to help manage their diabetes.

  • Access to public transportation is seen as a barrier among both patients and providers. For example, people living with diabetes (27 percent) and providers (29 percent) rank access to public transportation as poor in their community.

CVS Health offers programs to provide people living with diabetes with personalized support when and where they need it — whether it be in the community, in the home or in the palm of their hand.

For example, our Transform Diabetes Care includes personalized pharmacist counseling and the support of a diabetes coach to help ensure members stay adherent to their care plans. Additionally, through our Pharmacy Advisor program, our members can get one-on-one counseling from pharmacists either in-person at a CVS pharmacy location, or through our URAC-accredited call center.

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.

A man using diabetic testing equipment.
Hide Media Contacts (Sidebar)
No
Article
Hide Share
Off
"Likes" Count
2
Display Hero
Off

Everyday Steps Are Critical for Managing Diabetes

Bottom of the article
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.

Hide Media Contacts (Sidebar)
No
Article
Hide Share
Off
"Likes" Count
2
Display Hero
Off

Accordant: Holistic Support for Patients with Complex Conditions

Bottom of the article
A photo of a doctor putting hand on patient’s shoulder.

Managing rare or complex conditions can often be challenging for patients. They can feel overwhelmed by the condition, medication side effects, complex dosage instructions, comorbidities, complicated provider directions, and experience challenges trying to navigate the health care system.

Health plans and employers, can adopt and offer our Accordant program for their plan members. Accordant provides holistic support for patients with rare conditions through targeted interventions designed to meet each patient’s unique needs.

The specialized care team is composed of registered nurses, pharmacists, social workers, and a medical director – all backed by a medical advisory board. These skilled practitioners set mutually agreed-upon health goals with the patient, discuss symptom management, explain proper use of medications, and even deal with resource issues such as lack of transportation to doctors’ appointments or cost of care. In addition, social workers help patients with community resources such as negotiating utility bill payments, identifying support groups, and grants for home modifications.

In a recent Blue Cross Blue Shield blog post, Accordant Medical Director Dr. Andrew Krueger discusses the importance of comprehensive care management services for patients with complex conditions such as multiple sclerosis and the difference this kind of care can make.

A photo showing a doctor putting hand on patient’s shoulder.
Hide Media Contacts (Sidebar)
No
Article
Hide Share
Off
"Likes" Count
0
Display Hero
Off

Improving the Infusion Therapy Experience with Coram

Bottom of the article

As health care costs continue to rise, payers, providers and patients are looking for new ways to help improve quality of patient care and their experience while lowering overall costs. One promising area is in home infusion care.

In fact, published research has shown that the home infusion services, like those provided by Coram CVS Specialty Services, can be safe and beneficial for those patients requiring infused therapies and in some cases can be a lower cost alternative to receiving the same services in a hospital or inpatient setting. In addition, the research has also shown that patients overwhelmingly prefer receiving their infusion therapies at home.

Read more about the benefits and value of home infusion care from Tricia Lacavich, Vice President for CVS Specialty Coram Infusion Services, in her recent article in Fierce Healthcare.

A patient and a caregiver sitting on a sofa.
Hide Media Contacts (Sidebar)
No
Article
Hide Share
Off
"Likes" Count
0
Display Hero
Off

Supporting Our Patients with Chronic Disease

Bottom of the article
A doctor comforting a female patient.

As we transform the health care experience for all patients, we pay special attention to the needs of patients with chronic diseases who seek care more frequently. We continue to invest in the development of smart and robust solutions to address the health impacts and escalating costs related to chronic disease in the U.S. Our efforts include expanding preventive care and treatment for chronic conditions, improving medication adherence, coordinating care across the healthcare system, engaging patients where they are, and offering healthier product options at our stores.

Personalizing Care Solutions

Our Transform Care programs continue to deliver frequent and highly personalized care to millions of CVS Caremark members who are managing a chronic condition. The programs combine patient-related health and pharmacy data with drug cost management strategies that make care more effective, affordable and easy to navigate.

Transform Diabetes Care, introduced in 2016, has since been adopted by more than 230 CVS Caremark clients, representing 3.4 million members. The program uses advanced analytics to identify members with diabetes and target appropriate interventions. A certified coach develops and helps execute personalized management plans for Type 2 diabetes patients based on their pharmacy data and electronic health record information. The patients use at-home, connected glucometers for glucose readings, which their coach can monitor to offer help as needed. The program also ensures patients receive prescription refill reminders, in-person counseling on diabetes management, and comprehensive diabetes visits at MinuteClinic locations at no out-of-pocket cost.

By 2021, we plan to offer an enhanced diabetes program that combines CVS Health’s local and pharmacy care with Aetna’s care management, targeting, analytics and other capabilities, resulting in a best-in-class diabetes and chronic offering. The enhanced program will derive from the current Transform Diabetes Care model, making for a seamless transition and member experience for clients who wish to adopt the enhanced product. Features of the enhanced product may include:

Aetna’s care managers can provide a single point of contact for members with chronic conditions regardless of which conditions members have. The member’s care manager will also have access to the member’s information from their engagement in the Transform Diabetes Care program and can coach based off of that information.

Creating Comprehensive Programs for Complex Conditions

Another way we are reducing costs and enhancing patient care is through the development of comprehensive programming designed specifically for complex chronic conditions like kidney disease and cancer.

In 2018, we introduced a program to support patients with End Stage Renal Disease (ESRD), a disease that affects nearly 700,000 Americans. Taking a staged approach, our program seeks to slow the progression of ESRD and reduce associated hospitalizations. Beginning with early disease identification and patient education, the program will follow with the development of a comprehensive home dialysis program, for both hemodialysis and peritoneal dialysis. Understanding that longer, more frequent hemodialysis treatments often lead to better outcomes, we will initiate a pivotal clinical trial of a new home hemodialysis device in support of a planned U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) submission to obtain market clearance.

We will select new program participants by determining who is most at risk for kidney disease and progression to kidney failure, as identified through medical and pharmacy claims data and predictive analytics algorithms, in accordance with HIPAA. Our Accordant Care nurses will engage these individuals to educate them on their risk level, important tests they should consider taking, and the need to see a nephrologist. This team will work with individuals as they progress toward ESRD.

We also work with our health care partners and clients to help manage the cost of oncology care while ensuring access to vital therapies for patients. Our approach promotes evidence-based cancer care, lower-cost but clinically equivalent treatment options, and a holistic patient care model that helps patients adhere to therapy. An important component of our cancer care approach is helping providers stay up-to-date with the latest research and advancements, a challenge in the fast-paced field of oncology.

In 2018, we partnered with the leading oncology organization National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN) to provide physicians with a tool to access the latest evidence-supported information. Treatment Guidelines from the NCCN are integrated into Novologix, CVS Health’s proprietary technology platform, and serve as the clinical foundation of multi-drug regimen prior authorization (PA) for physicians and patients. Novologix helps drive cost-effective regimen selection by determining treatment coverage that meets treatment plan needs.

To learn about the many other ways we’re supporting our chronic disease patients, read our 2018 Corporate Social Responsibility Report.

To stay up-to-date on the latest CVS Health Social Responsibility news and content, sign up for email news alerts.

A doctor comforting a female patient.
Hide Media Contacts (Sidebar)
No
Article
Hide Share
Off
"Likes" Count
1
Display Hero
Off

Coram Pediatric Backpacks Help School-Age Patients Stay Active

Bottom of the article

Coram, a CVS specialty business, provides high-quality infusion and tube-feeding care to patients where they live, work and travel. For younger patients, that list now includes where they play.

As part of enhancing the consumer experience, Coram pediatric patients who receive home parenteral (intravenous) nutrition (HPN) and enteral (tube-feeding) nutrition can carry their pump and nutrition in a backpack that’s sized just for them.

A photo showing Coram’s “Pediatric Pump Pals” enteral backpacks.
Coram Pediatric Pump Pals enteral backpacks.

Coram Pediatric Pump Pals backpacks enable children and teens to carry their portable pump and nutrition while they participate in normal activities while infusing.

About 1,200 pediatric patients use the parenteral backpacks, while nearly 1,600 utilize the enteral packs for school and other activities.

“The entire system fits nicely into these small backpacks for little ones,” said Karen Hamilton, Director of Clinical Nutrition for CVS Health. “They can be worn by the patient or hung nearby throughout the infusion.” As with all home infusion therapies, the intent is for the patient to be as mobile as possible.

“Our backpacks give young patients the freedom to leave the house and live their lives,” said Hamilton. “Gone are the days of being homebound and having to miss out on activities, birthday parties and other events. The backpacks are designed to be fun and not look medical.”

A photo displaying Coram’s “Pediatric Pump Pals” parenteral backpacks.
Coram Pediatric Pump Pals parenteral backpacks.

Providing quality infusion care at home and on the go

Coram CVS Specialty Infusion Services delivers high-quality infusion therapy services in home-based and outpatient settings to more than 183,000 patients per year. Services are provided at more than 90 locations nationwide, as well as through the largest home infusion network in the country.

Coram’s home-based care includes nutrition, delivered either intravenously when the digestive tract is not functional and necessary for patients to maintain adequate nutrition, as well as through tube-feeding. Patients may receive parenteral or enteral nutrition for weeks or months until their issues resolve, or may even need care for their lifetime.

The Coram Pediatric Pump Pals backpacks connect to a portable infusion pump that has been pre-programmed by the Coram pharmacy team to deliver the nutrition over a specified amount of time with each pump customized to the unique patient’s needs.

“I remember the days with the challenges when we had pediatric patients and no backpacks. Then we progressed to an initial mini- adult pack for these little patients,” said Wanda Rogers, Director of Pharmacy Infusion. “This is a wonderful advancement to have these young patients ambulate with color and fit into the typical daily activities.”

Hide Media Contacts (Sidebar)
No
Article
Hide Share
Off
"Likes" Count
1
Display Hero
Off

Aetna’s New Cancer Support Center Connects Members to Personalized Information

Bottom of the article

“Take a deep breath.”

That’s how the section of Aetna’s digital oncology hub regarding “navigating treatment” begins – no medical terms or insurance jargon, just a simple reminder.

Dealing with cancer can be an overwhelming experience for patients, families and caregivers. The lack of centralized information about the disease and effective treatments can pose a real challenge both for patients, who must cope with their own personal cancer diagnosis and journey, and their families.

While there is information available online for those dealing with cancer, it can be confusing, contradictory or even downright dangerous when patients rely solely on “Dr. Google” for information.

Aetna is stepping into that information gap by providing members with a comprehensive, user-friendly resource for cancer treatment education and support. A digital oncology hub called the Cancer Support Center is now part of Aetna’s library of online-based member resources.

“Cancer diagnosis and treatment is often the most difficult and physically, mentally and financially stressful time in a person’s life,” said Dr. Roger Brito, senior medical director on the Aetna oncology solutions team. “We made it our mission to try to make that journey a little easier.”

The project was developed as an enterprise-wide initiative, involving medical and content experts from across Aetna who worked together to create easy-to-understand materials that are location-specific and catered to a member’s diagnosis. The information on the hub is structured in a way that reflects a holistic view of the cancer patient journey – from screening and prevention, to diagnosis, to treatment, recovery and beyond.

One of the key benefits of making this kind of information available online is that it can be easily updated to reflect new treatments, standards and best practices. As Dr. Brito points out, many medications used today weren’t even available just a few years ago, so the oncology hub can be continually revised to reflect the latest medical guidance.

“It’s just a constantly changing and evolving state,” he said. “The treatments in two to three years will likely be very different from those we use today.”

The Aetna team identified breast cancer as the type of cancer that affected the most members across all ages and backgrounds (with more than 120,000 claims per year) and chose to launch the hub around this topic. However, the Cancer Support Center will continue to evolve and grow as more information is added for different cancers, including ovarian and prostate cancers.

The support center has been an early success in terms of member and caregiver engagement, according to Dr. Brito, with many visitors coming back to the site repeatedly.

“The goal is to continue to expand the hub so that we can provide the right mix of resources and education,” said Dr. Brito. “We will continue to look for opportunities to support our members and their caregivers to help ease the challenges of this difficult journey.”

Hide Media Contacts (Sidebar)
No
Press Release
Hide Share
Off
"Likes" Count
0
Display Hero
Off

Aetna Is Helping Lead the Way on the Evolution of Precision Medicine

Bottom of the article

There are many reasons people get sick — from the quality of their health care to environmental factors and behavioral patterns like diet or smoking. Genetic factors — including those aspects of our individual physical makeup that can offer clues to the kinds of diseases for which we are susceptible —also impact our health.

And with the number of genetic tests increasing to more than 50,000 in the last five years, “precision medicine” or “personalized medicine” can play a part in helping to screen for, diagnose, prevent, treat and even cure disease. By tapping into a deeper understanding of a person’s genetics, precision medicine has the potential to unlock opportunities for prevention as well as more focused and effective treatments.

“As our understanding of genomics continues to grow, we are seeing the development of a new generation of genetic testing and targeted treatments,” said Joanne Armstrong, M.D., M.P.H., senior medical director at Aetna. “Although we have a long way to go to replace the current ‘one size fits all’ medical model with individualized genetics diagnostics and hyper-specific treatments, the evolution of this field is exciting.”

Aetna, a CVS Health company, has helped lead the way in that evolution, developing the first comprehensive program for breast and ovarian cancer testing using the BRCA gene test. Aetna also was the first health plan to create and implement a genetic information privacy policy and the first to develop telephone genetic counseling services.

“Aetna has been at the forefront of personalized medicine for more than two decades,” said Heather Shappell, precision medicine program manager, Aetna. “We’ve driven many firsts in this field. High standards and a focus on member safety and health are the foundation of what we do.”

Armstrong noted that as genetic testing and precision medicine become more common, the health care industry must take steps to ensure the quality of results so that patients can get the care they need.

Toward that end, Aetna became the first health plan to require quality credentialing of participating genetic testing labs. The company continues to lead on this front, requiring genetics laboratories with which they contract to enter test results into a public domain database called ClinVar. This database compiles information about human genomic variations in order to advance our scientific understanding of the relationship of genes to overall health.

This type of validation is particularly important in precision medicine. For example, while a lab may determine that a patient has a specific gene variation, the mere presence of that variation isn’t necessarily linked to the presence of a particular disease. Sharing the anonymous patient data among clinicians from around the world allows researchers to discover patterns and possible connections between genomic variations and specific diseases.

“Genetics is an evolving field where many unanswered, critical questions still exist,” Armstrong noted. “For example, as the science of personalized medicine matures, new challenges are emerging. New gene therapies recently approved by the Food and Drug Administration have the potential to cure genetic-based diseases, many of which are lethal. The staggering costs, however, strain the ability of our health care system to provide access to these therapies.”

Precision medicine is poised to expand beyond single disease and gene tests like BRCA and into processes that map out a person’s entire genome, providing clues to help predict future disease. As this type of personalized medicine becomes a more prevalent part of how patients are diagnosed and treated, Aetna is utilizing its long history of leadership in the field to help ensure that members receive the right treatments in the right place at the right time.

Hide Media Contacts (Sidebar)
No
Press Release
Hide Share
Off
"Likes" Count
0
Display Hero
Off