Health care, from the heart

Health care, from the heart
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Our health care system is under unprecedented strain.

Through it all, CVS Health has been there.

We’re nearly 300,000 employees ensuring millions of Americans can access health care services.

We’ve opened 4,700 COVID-19 test sites since March and administered over 10 million tests at our stores and through partners in underserved communities.

With millions staying home, CVS Health is increasing access to prescription delivery, virtual visits and mental health services.

Now, we’re providing vaccines in long-term care facilities nationwide.

We’ve been on the frontlines, making health care easier to access and afford.

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Heart At Work: Bob Atighechi brings hope to nursing homes

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It’s mid-morning, December 18, and a crowd of national press – CNN, NBC, Associated Press, to name a few – are gathered outside the Reservoir Skilled Nursing facility in West Hartford, Connecticut. Governor Ned Lamont, the last of the dignitaries to speak, steps to the podium.
   
Bob Atighechi is there too. Bob is one of a team of CVS pharmacists who will provide among the first COVID-19 vaccinations in the country for residents and staff in long-term care facilities. It’s a new wave of hope for the nation, one that’s been missing since the pandemic began. 

“We’ve been waiting for this day. It’s history,” says Bob. “I’m so lucky to be part of it.” 

The speeches have concluded and Reservoir staff are lined up outside for their first Pfizer-BioNTech vaccination. Their second shot will be administered in three weeks. 

Inside, where it’s sheltered and warm, Jeanne Peters, 95, is the first resident to be inoculated, with Bob’s assistance. “It was no problem,” says Jeanne, brushing off confetti that commemorated the event. “I think everyone who can, should get a shot against the virus – no matter what age.” 

Pharmacists Bob Atighechi and MaryLou Galushko providing a COVID-19 vaccination to Reservoir resident Jeanne Peters December 18, 2020
Pharmacists Bob Atighechi and MaryLou Galushko provide a COVID-19 vaccination to Reservoir resident Jeanne Peters December 18, 2020

Fast forward a few weeks later. Despite the holidays Bob has worked nearly every day, generally starting around 8:00 a.m. and returning home at 7:30 p.m. “We provide about 130 vaccinations daily in nursing homes throughout central Connecticut. They’re relieved and appreciative,” he explains. 

“I have to admit that the idea of receiving a new vaccination was a little bit unnerving despite the amount of education,” explains Amy Peruti, Director of Nursing at Hughes Health & Rehabilitation in West Hartford. “Bob’s confidence and friendliness were a calming force and truly set the stage for a great clinic day.”

Pharmacists Bob Atighechi and MaryLou Galushko applauding Reservoir resident Margaret Dubois who is receiving a COVID-19 vaccination
Pharmacists Bob Atighechi and MaryLou Galushko applaud Reservoir resident Margaret Dubois who received a COVID-19 vaccination December 18, 2020

In the weeks ahead, CVS Health expects to vaccinate up to four million residents and staff at over 40,000 long-term care facilities across the country.
 
But Bob, who has been with the company 14 years, worries. He knows firsthand the exacting toll Coronavirus has already taken on this vulnerable population. In one facility it was whispered that 60 of the 200 residents died from the disease – grandmothers, grandfathers, sisters, brothers – people who were loved. Less talked about, he says, is the fear and stress that have forced staff to retire early – leaving resident care in some locations to just a handful. 

But, what nags him most is the hesitancy. “Only 60 or 70% of the population we see are taking advantage of vaccinations. We need to reach everyone to be effective.” 

He hopes confidence will grow, making way for CVS Health to be able to quickly provide vaccinations to the general population. Among them, his elderly parents in California and eventually his teenagers.

When that day comes, Bob will be there, working to ensure people are safe. “I never dreamed I’d be part of something this important. It really is, you know.”

Thank you, Bob, for bringing your heart to work and offering hope to our loved ones in long-term care.

Heart At Work recognizes CVS Health heroes across the country who bring their hearts to work, helping people on their path to better health. Read their stories, watch their videos and celebrate our CVS Health Heart At Work heroes along with us!

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CVS Health provides update on COVID-19 vaccinations in long-term care facilities

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Company is on track based on federal partnership agreement, with shots in arms increasing daily

WOONSOCKET, R.I., Jan. 6, 2021/PRNewswire/ -- CVS Health (NYSE: CVS) is now administering COVID-19 vaccines in skilled nursing facilities in 49 states, with the rollout beginning in 36 states and Washington, D.C. last week. Start dates were as follows:

  • December 21: Connecticut, Florida, Kentucky, Maine, Nevada, New Hampshire New York, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Vermon
  • December 23: Maryland
  • December 28: Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Delaware, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Washington, Washington, D.C, Wisconsin
  • January 4: Puerto Rico, Wyoming
     

Start dates were chosen by each state, in addition to which types of long-term care facilities to activate first. The most at-risk patients were prioritized; of the approximately 15,000 skilled nursing facilities nationwide, nearly 8,000 chose to partner with CVS Health. The company expects to complete administration of first doses in skilled nursing facilities by January 25, consistent with timelines originally shared with states and provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

States will have activated nearly 31,000 assisted living facilities partnering with CVS Health by next week, with first doses administered in all facilities within three to four weeks of start dates. Activation dates at the remaining nearly 8,000 CVS Health partner facilities have yet to be determined by states.

"Our work with long-term care facilities isn't a mass vaccination effort quite the opposite," said Larry J. Merlo, President and Chief Executive Officer, CVS Health. "We're dealing with a vulnerable population that requires onsite and, in some cases, in-room visits at facilities with fewer than 100 residents on average. Despite these challenges we remain on schedule, and the number of vaccines we administer will continue to rise as more facilities are activated by the states."

CVS Pharmacy teams will make three visits to each long-term care facility to ensure residents and staff receive their initial shot and critical booster. Most residents and staff will be fully vaccinated three to four weeks after the first visit, depending on which vaccine they receive.

CVS Health has been following COVID-19 vaccination reporting protocols to state immunization registries and the CDC, but what is shared publicly is typically outdated by 48 72 hours. The company will now make national and state-level figures available here, with weekday updates at approximately 4 p.m. ET. While uptake among residents remains encouragingly high, the actual number of residents is approximately 20 30 percent lower than facility projections that were based on bed count. Initial uptake among staff is low, part of which is likely due to facilities wanting to stagger vaccinations between visits.

Per an agreement with the Department of Health and Human Services, COVID-19 vaccines will eventually be available at all CVS Pharmacy locations throughout the country subject to product availability and prioritization of populations, which will be determined by states. No vaccines are currently available at CVS Pharmacy locations, but the company is in discussions with several states to make a limited number of doses available in the coming weeks in advance of the broader rollout. Vaccines in a retail setting will be offered on an appointment-only basis via CVS.com or through the CVS Pharmacy app, and there will be a dedicated 800 number for people without online access. CVS Pharmacy has the capacity to administer 20 - 25 million shots per month.

Multimedia assets, including b-roll and still photography, are available here. More information on steps CVS Health has taken to address the pandemic is available at the company's frequently updated COVID-19 resource center.

About CVS Health

CVS Health is a different kind of health care company. We are a diversified health services company with nearly 300,000 employees united around a common purpose of helping people on their path to better health. In an increasingly connected and digital world, we are meeting people wherever they are and changing health care to meet their needs. Built on a foundation of unmatched community presence, our diversified model engages one in three Americans each year. From our innovative new services at HealthHUB locations, to transformative programs that help manage chronic conditions, we are making health care more accessible, more affordable and simply better. Learn more about how we're transforming health at www.cvshealth.com.

Media contact

T.J. Crawford
212-457-0583
crawfordt2@aetna.com

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2020: A year like no other

2020: A year like no other
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Danielle Taylor, a CVS Pharmacy District Leader in New Orleans told us, “2020 is one for the books!” In addition to battling with COVID-19, they’ve had an unforgiving run of hurricanes. Danielle has had quite the year herself, as both a daughter and a mother, navigating this pandemic up close and personal. We first met her and her team back in May.

As you’ll see, for this episode of Healthy Communities News, we’re bringing you updates from the inspiring stories we’ve covered over the past year — people rising to meet unprecedented challenges, together.

In this episode of the podcast (below), we’ll take you from Atlanta’s Westside, where its civil rights history still inspires today’s movements; to Boston, where a gutsy nonprofit that’s been using food as medicine for 30 years has reinvented itself in the face of the coronavirus. As well as Miami-Dade County where Branches is equipping students in new ways to keep learning. And downtown Houston, Texas, where the San José Clinic seems to have been preparing for a healthcare crisis just like the one we find ourselves in… since 1922.

Tune in and subscribe to our podcast

Listen to Healthy Communities News on the go using your favorite podcast platform.

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Making sure a voice is heard

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For Karen Cloney Beaulieu, an Aetna Health Product Office /WAH CT, Febuary 19, 2017, is a day that changed everything for her and her children. Her son was 14, her daughter just 7.

“I will never forget that day as much as I try to,” Karen says. “That’s the day when my husband Keith made a decision to end his suffering. Keith had been diagnosed many years before as bipolar and had an underlying personality disorder. I want to share Keith's story since I know his death came as a shock to so many people who only saw a smiling face day to day.”

Keith suffered a traumatic brain injury when he was under a year old, which left him with a fractured skull and additional medical concerns. During childhood, he struggled with ADHD, endured several additional concussions and then had a traumatic life incident that led to deepening mental illness.

Keith made several suicidal attempts in his teens and early twenties, but as an Army MP, Karen says he was too proud to seek help. Counseling proved to be a short-term solution for Keith, and he refused medication because of its unpleasant side effects.

“He self-medicated with alcohol, which fueled the anger and only made the battles worse. I watched the man I loved, the man I married and raised children with, fall further and further into his mental illness.”

Keith often said he could not fix himself, something Karen says heartbreakingly spoke to the depth of his struggles. “The sadness and emotional ups and downs that can come with living with someone who has an untreated mental illness are so difficult that you often find yourself struggling as well,” Karen recalls. “I came to dread him leaving every day, not knowing what would happen.”

On the second anniversary of Keith’s passing, Karen became an advocate with the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP). “I have embraced this mission to stamp out the stigma of mental illness and to bring awareness to struggles. I have written many letters to my state representatives to lobby for laws that will help those fighting this silent battle. This may not be the life I saw myself having, but it was the one that I was given. And I will do my best to make sure Keith’s voice is heard,” Karen says.

Our commitment to suicide prevention

As one of the country’s leading health companies, CVS Health is committed to helping people on their path to better health. Part of that mission is and must be the reversal of our devastating suicide trends. To drive meaningful suicide prevention, everyone must play a role. As employers, health care providers, and community members, we have a collective responsibility to do more to intervene at times those at risk of suicide are most vulnerable.

CVS Health is prioritizing suicide prevention as a strategic imperative, intervening with members and non-members during vulnerable times to offer a range of specially tailored, evidence-based resources and support. CVS Health will also continue to work with suicide prevention non-profits and industry experts such as the American Foundation for Suicide and Prevention (AFSP) to deliver suicide prevention training and expanded resources to Aetna members and the public.

If you are thinking about suicide, know someone who is or need to talk with someone, we encourage you to immediately call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK (8255).

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A woman smiling at a practitioner after getting a vaccination, getting a band-aid put on her arm

Understanding and addressing vaccine hesitancy

By: Sree Chaguturu, MD Senior Vice President, CVS Health and Chief Medical Officer, CVS Caremark Troy Brennan, MD Executive Vice President and Chief Medical Officer, CVS Health Garth Graham, MD Vice President, Chief Community Health Officer, Aetna

We are now entering a new phase of our collective response to the pandemic. If and when any of the several leading COVID-19 vaccine candidates are approved, manufacturers are expected to ramp up wide-scale production. Many of the public health levers we have used to date to control the pandemic — social distancing, wearing masks, hand hygiene, broad testing and contact tracing — will continue to be important. However, vaccines offer us a new and powerful tool in combating the pandemic. For the country to achieve significant control of COVID-19, widespread adoption of safe and efficacious vaccines across all communities and populations will be critical.

While initial results show the vaccines pending authorization to be both safe and highly efficacious, several reports have emerged suggesting widespread adoption will be difficult due to vaccine hesitancy. Better understanding the reasons behind vaccine hesitancy enables us to implement a targeted campaign to address these concerns and help ensure widespread adoption across communities. We wanted to obtain a clear view of which populations are more or less willing to receive a COVID-19 vaccine, and why they have those particular sentiments.

To do so, we initiated a broad, nationwide survey that is representative of the U.S. population as described by the U.S. Census Bureau. The survey was initiated the day after Pfizer and BioNTech released their first interim efficacy analysis from their Phase-3 study indicating their vaccine candidate was more than 90 percent effective in preventing COVID-19 and had 5,153 participants. The survey was conducted November 10-15, 2020. Its findings allow us to better understand vaccine hesitancy at this point in the pandemic and hence, address it.

While the results showed significant hesitancy across multiple populations — only 28 percent of this general population sample were interested in receiving the COVID-19 vaccine as soon as it is available — they also gave us the information needed to effectively overcome these barriers. These findings are a snapshot in time and are likely to evolve.

Among survey respondents:

cvs heart

28%

were interested in a vaccine as soon as it is possible

35%

would wait until others had been vaccinated

20%

were certain about receiving a vaccination

17%

did not plan on being vaccinated

Responses from different demographic groups highlight cultural and ethnic differences in their attitude toward vaccination. Our survey revealed that Black participants were least likely to seek the COVID-19 vaccine, with only 16 percent interested in receiving a vaccine when one is first available, and 29 percent planning to wait before getting vaccinated. Asian responders were most likely to get the vaccine, but were likely to wait and see (51 percent) rather than get one immediately (21 percent). 

Based on the findings, it is clear that education and awareness efforts should focus on helping those very interested in getting a vaccine as soon as it is first available understand that certain populations will be prioritized. Individuals who do not meet the priority criteria may not be able to access a vaccine early on. CVS Health plans to address vaccine hesitancy and access through the following:

 

  • Data and reporting We will continue to periodically survey the nation to update our findings. We will create focus groups — with an emphasis on minority populations — to better understand community-specific concerns. Additionally, we are developing reporting for Aetna and CVS Caremark clients to determine uptake of the vaccine.

  • Targeted messaging Using these and future survey findings, we will develop targeted messaging to be delivered through traditional and digital media outlets and our in-store channels. We will also train nearly 90,000 clinicians — pharmacists, pharmacy technicians, nurse practitioners, and other professionals — to deliver these messages. We will provide vaccine educational materials to Aetna and CVS Caremark plan sponsors to assist them in empowering their own beneficiaries, employees, and dependents.

  • Providers and other influencers as educators We will partner with influencers — including health care providers — and other stakeholders across the country to amplify information about the safety, efficacy, and benefits of COVID-19 vaccines. We will also educate Aetna and CVS Caremark members through a variety of channels including as a health and pharmacy benefit provider, and through Aetna’s contracted network of providers.

  • Convenient access to vaccination services We believe convenient access matters. We are present in communities across the country, with more than 70 percent of Americans living within three miles of a CVS Pharmacy. In addition, nearly 60 percent of CVS Pharmacy locations are in communities more vulnerable to the impacts of COVID-19.As determined by the CDC’s Social Vulnerability Index We will provide vaccination services to nearly 30,000 long-term care and skilled nursing facilities in collaboration with the CDC. All of our nearly 10,000 pharmacies will provide vaccination services. Vaccines will be available by appointment only while supply is limited. Patients will be able to sign up online and schedule their follow-up booster shot at the time of initial scheduling.

Read white paper, "Understanding and addressing vaccine hesitancy".

Coping with SAD and COVID-19

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As colder weather, soaring COVID-19 cases and disrupted holidays force people indoors this winter, more Americans may struggle with seasonal affective disorder (SAD) — a type of depression that kicks in when days grow shorter and temperatures fall. 

“Biologically and chemically, people have a reaction to weather changes and darkness, and it’s a time when we have more isolation,” says Cara McNulty, DPA, President of Behavioral Health and EAP at Aetna. “The physical distancing and closures as a result of the pandemic make seasonal affective disorder, especially this year, something really important to pay attention to.”

SAD affects six in every 100 people on average. The causes are unclear, but women are four times more likely to feel its effects. “Women have higher rates of anxiety and depression, which puts them more at risk,” says McNulty. 

Adolescents and young adults can suffer from SAD, too. “We’re pretty good at acknowledging grief and loss when a loved one passes, but we don't often acknowledge grief and loss around things like there wasn't college graduation, or you're starting high school online and you're not meeting friends,” McNulty says. 

Photo of Cara McNulty, President of Behavioral Health, Aetna
“Biologically and chemically, people have a reaction to weather changes and darkness,” says Cara McNulty, President of Behavioral Health, Aetna

That’s why CVS Health launched Here 4 U, a program that offers virtual peer support sessions for young adults from 18-24 to help them manage their mental health amid the current challenges. A wider rollout is planned in 2021. 

It’s important to recognize the symptoms of SAD, which is usually experienced as mild to moderate depression, McNulty says. “You feel blue; you have less energy. Some people say, ‘I just feel foggy; my thoughts aren't clear.’” 

Measures to treat or prevent SAD include exercising, getting enough rest and eating healthy foods. Getting outside in sunlight or using an indoor light box that provides 10,000 lux of light can also help. A vitamin D supplement can also be beneficial, especially for women. 

In her own life, McNulty finds prioritizing gratitude improves her mindset. 

“Taking time for things like thanking other people or volunteering absolutely has a positive effect on our own mental well-being,” she says. “Kindness is an unbelievable elixir.”

Help is also available; therapists are well-versed in seasonal affective disorder. 

“Things have been tough already this year and our resiliency levels are low,” McNulty says. “It's important that we stop and say, ‘I'm not going to just try to muscle through this. I'm going to seek care’ — and to understand that care is there.”

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COVID-19 vaccines arrive: CVS Health is ready

COVID-19 vaccines arrive: CVS Health is ready
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Since March, pharmacy technician Alysses Goree and her colleagues have administered thousands of COVID-19 tests and flu vaccines in nursing homes across Houston.

With long-term care facilities accounting for nearly 40% of COVID-19 deaths, residents long for safer environments – and their families, she says. “It’s heartbreaking. All they want is a conversation and a hug.”

With Monday’s nationwide rollout of the first COVID-19 vaccine, manufactured by Pfizer and BioNTech, help is finally arriving. 

Alysses Goree standing at an outdoor CVS Health vaccination location.
Pharmacy Technician Alysses Goree has administered COVID-19 tests to hundreds of Omnicare residents and staff and will provide vaccinations

Retail pharmacies like CVS Pharmacy will play a critical role in vaccinating Americans on a massive scale. “We are 100% staffed right now for long-term care facilities,” Goree says of her local team. “We’re prepared, we understand the environment and we’re going out to help save peoples’ lives and help them see their families.”

CVS Pharmacy was selected to administer COVID-19 vaccinations by more than 40,000 long-term care facilities. 

“We're really excited to be a critical part of providing these services to a majority of the facilities in the country,” says Dr. Sree Chaguturu, Chief Medical Officer of Caremark at CVS Health.

The company will also help deliver vaccines to the general public later in 2021 at no charge to patients. About 70% of Americans live within three miles of a CVS Pharmacy.

As a company that shifted during 2020 to meet people where they are, CVS Health is uniquely prepared for this pivotal moment. This year, the company will administer nearly 20 million vaccines and has delivered more than 9 million COVID-19 tests at over 4,300 drive-thru sites and mobile walk-in kiosks nationwide, many within underserved communities. It also created a digital scheduling system and hired thousands of pharmacists and technicians.

“We've learned a lot from the COVID-19 testing process that we're going to pull forward as part of the COVID-19 vaccination process,” says Sree.

The same digital app created to schedule tests and flu shots, for example, will provide online scheduling for both doses of the vaccine.

“Think of it like a round-trip ticket that ensures a seamless experience when you walk into a CVS Pharmacy,” Sree explains. “In five minutes or so, you will be able to get your vaccine, a bandage, and be on your way.”

The moment feels historic, says Goree. “Thirty years from now, I will be able to say that I helped save lives during the pandemic. I’m so proud.”

A senior man about to get a vaccination from a long-term care nurse.
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CVS Health Live: Preparing for a COVID-19 vaccine

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CVS Health leaders discuss the latest on COVID-19 vaccines including the science behind the vaccines in development, who will receive vaccines first and what to expect once vaccines are available to the general public.

For more information and up-to-date news, please visit our COVID‑19 resource center.

Dr. Sree Chaguturu, M.D.
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How creativity and compassion drove CVS Specialty’s pandemic response

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 When the COVID-19 pandemic began in early 2020, CVS Specialty teams – from pharmacists and clinical experts to our specialized care and customer support units – confronted challenges they had never before seen. For example, Accordant, which provides nurse-led care management to members with complex, chronic diseases, and Coram, delivering specialty pharmacy and infusion therapy services in home-based and outpatient settings, realized they needed to make swift adjustments to ensure safety for all and continue providing quality care for patients.

Prem Shah, Executive Vice President, Specialty Pharmacy and Product Innovation for CVS Health, spoke recently with Andrew Krueger, M.D., Medical Director of Accordant Health Services, and Tricia Lacavich, Vice President and General Manager of Coram CVS Specialty Infusion Services, to reflect on how they responded to the crisis and how it may have a longstanding impact on how CVS Specialty supports patients.

Prem Shah: At the beginning of the pandemic, we knew that our Accordant members and Coram patients would need extra support to make sure all of their concerns were addressed. How did Accordant and Coram work to respond to their members’ and patients’ needs during this time?

Tricia Lacavich: Because Coram offers home-based care, our top priority was creating a safe environment in the home for our patients. We began making video calls to patients to ensure they were feeling secure and able to competently access their medication. We also immediately put a screening process in place to protect the health of our patients and staff.

As you know, personal protective equipment (PPE) was in short supply at the beginning of the pandemic, and our patient-facing nurses were in critical need of gowns, gloves and N100 masks to make sure they remained safe in the patient's home.

You may also recall hospital occupancy was a major concern. And as you’ve said previously, unprecedented challenges require innovative thinking and swift action. Recognizing the need for quick solutions, we put our Hospital Capacity Optimization program in place to help transition eligible IV-therapy patients to home-based nursing care, with the goal of ultimately increasing hospital bed capacity for those who need it most during the pandemic. And now, we’re partnering with HHS to administer COVID-19 treatment to eligible, high-risk patients in their homes or long-term care facilities as part of the U.S. government’s Operation Warp Speed.

Dr. Andrew Krueger: On the Accordant side, we were deeply concerned about the impact a COVID-19 diagnosis would have on our member population, many of whom are immunocompromised. We knew we had to act quickly to educate our staff on care management and prevention guidelines and create a space for them to share questions from our members. One of the ways we provided information to our staff was through a podcast series dedicated to COVID-19 education for our nurses. It covered a range of topics from prevention, to testing and treatments, which were critical to their day-to-day communication with their members. 

We also established a set of questions our nurses were required to ask every member on a regular basis to make sure they were staying safe and healthy. 

Prem Shah: There’s not a single person in this country who has been unaffected by COVID-19 or its ripple effects – even the healthiest among us. Many of our Specialty patients and members are particularly vulnerable. What have been your patients’ or member’s main concerns about COVID-19, and how have you responded?

Dr. Krueger: Everybody is different. Some Accordant members depend on their physicians for advice about the virus, while others rely on social media. But, across the board, we saw an increase in anxiety in our members – potentially due in part to misinformation. We organized our nurses to focus on keeping members safe and making sure they knew what to do if they got sick.

Depression has been another issue for many of our Accordant members. We’ve been screening members regularly for depression, and we helped with physician referrals and coordinating telehealth appointments when doctors weren’t seeing their patients in person.&

In the early days of the pandemic, some Accordant members told us they were nervous about getting their medications filled in-person at the pharmacy. We worked with them closely to address these concerns, and for many that included shifting to mail order to maintain continuity of care. It’s worth noting that every situation was unique, and the solution was not a one-size-fits-all, so this meant supporting members based on their needs.

Lacavich: Our Specialty patients were concerned about Coram staff coming to their home to administer the infusions, but they also didn’t feel comfortable going to an office or hospital to get them. We invested a lot in education to help patients understand our rigorous guidelines around COVID-19 symptom-checking and the use of PPE to quell their concerns. For example, think about how daunting the N100 mask looks at first. That could be scary for patients to see and it caused real concern, so we aimed to educate them on why our staff wore these masks: They may look scary at first, but they’re really a positive thing that’s meant to protect their health and ours.

In addition, our Specialty patients were also concerned about supply. Some of our tube-feeding patients expressed fear they would be unable to get their nutrition, or their child’s nutrition. Many patients called into our centers asking for 90- and 120-day refills. We worked continually to reassure patients that there was plenty of supply and they would not run out.

These efforts were no small feat and required round-the-clock work and creative thinking from the Coram team at the beginning of the pandemic. However, our patient’s safety comes first, and their appreciation kept our team going. In fact, we’ve received a tremendous amount of feedback from patients who were incredibly grateful to be able to receive their infusions at home, and shared that it not only helped them feel safe during the pandemic, but gave them that human connection so many of us were craving in those early days. In some instances, our Coram staff was there when no one else could be, including their own family.

Prem Shah: What is the greatest lesson you’ve taken away from the past several months?

Dr. Krueger: This is not a new lesson, but one that has been reinforced for me: Health care is deeply personal. It’s most effective when people have meaningful interactions with a real, live human being.

That’s where our nursing teams came in. Members were reassured they were not in this alone – that their care management team is there for them. In a world that was very uncertain and changing rapidly, they brought a bit of calmness and consistency to it.

Lacavich: I've learned we have to be ready to pivot from what we thought and knew as we confront new challenges with an open mind. These are stressful times but my team, as well CVS Specialty as a whole, proved they can move mountains. We faced some pretty challenging situations, but we worked together to ensure our No. 1 priority – patient safety and quality care. Despite the incredible challenges brought on by the pandemic, no one ever just threw their hands up and said, "This can't be done." To me that speaks volumes.

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