The use of technology across the health care continuum has been rising at a rapid rate. As a result of COVID-19, the pace of technological transformation will only quicken and greatly influence the future of care delivery.
Delivering accessible, high-quality care at any time is a key health care priority — and has become even more significant during the COVID-19 pandemic. According to our study, consumers agree, with 92% indicating that it was very or somewhat important that health care be convenient.
At the 2020 HLTH virtual conference, CVS Health President and Chief Executive Officer Larry J. Merlo and Karen S. Lynch, CVS Health Executive Vice President and President of its Aetna business unit, who led our COVID-19 response, discussed how the organization quickly mobilized, operationalized and scaled its resources to ensure our 300,000 employees, 22 million medical members and millions of customers received the care they needed whether in their community, their home or the palm of their hand.
Five years ago, we made the bold decision to eliminate tobacco products from all of our CVS Pharmacy stores nationwide, and we’re still the only national pharmacy to do so.
Not only did our decision lead to 100 million fewer packs of cigarettes being sold in the first year since their removal, but we also took our efforts beyond our stores, helping 228 colleges and universities become tobacco free over the past five years and committing $50 million to deliver the first tobacco-free generation through our Be The First initiative.
And with the significant rise in teen e-cigarette use, we’re now working to combat vaping, too, including a $10 million commitment in 2019 to support youth smoking and e-cigarette prevention strategies and education in partnership with Discovery Education and CATCH Global Foundation, and our pledge earlier this year not to work with advertising or public relations agencies who work with tobacco and e-cigarette companies.
Beyond tobacco: Taking steps to transform health care
But our decision to eliminate tobacco was just the start. As a health care company now combined with Aetna, we’re taking even bolder steps to transform the consumer health care experience and help lead our customers, patients and the communities we serve on a path to better health.
On our shelves, customers now have access to more health-focused products and services than ever before. And we recently became the first and only national retailer to require that all vitamins and supplements undergo third-party testing to confirm they meet our high standards.
We’re also removing chemicals like parabens and phthalates from our store brand products and we took SPF less than 15 off our shelves.
At the local level, we’re building healthier communities with a $100 million investment in health and wellness, which includes programs aimed at helping people manage the most prevalent chronic diseases such as diabetes, heart disease and cancer.
Moving into 2020, we will expand our focus on tobacco cessation and prevention, particularly within the Medicaid program where smoking rates are considerably higher than among all adults. We’ll be working with Aetna Better Health managed Medicaid plans and together with CVS Caremark clients interested in creating or expanding smoking cession efforts for their Medicaid members.
At CVS Health, we know that health is a personal journey. And from tobacco removal to our many other health-focused services and offerings, we’re committed to navigating that journey hand-in-hand with our customers and patients to ensure that the future of care is one in which everyone can achieve their best health.
Welcome to Healthy Conversations, an open discussion among healthcare professionals about the latest innovations, what we've learned on the front lines of the pandemic, and how our industry is changing in real time. There might not be a specific moment when we can hit the reset button and start to tackle systemic healthcare challenges with a clean slate, but smaller resets are already underway. Join us as we examine what a COVID-19 Reset looks like for doctors, nurses, and other healthcare professionals.
We spoke with Dr. Rushika Fernandopulle, founder and CEO of Iora Health, about how physicians have addressed the pandemic in their own practices and the changing perceptions around value based care. You can find Dr. Fernandopulle’s full interview in the accompanying podcast (below) episode.
As discussed earlier in this series, COVID-19 is causing us to rethink and readjust how we deliver care. Broader systemic change starts within individual systems. For insight into how CVS is changing its own systems, we spoke to Dr. Dan Knecht and Angie Meoli.
One of the most eye-opening impacts of COVID-19 has been the dramatic disparities highlighted in our healthcare system. Dr. Dela Taghipour and Dr. Nadia Abuelezam will discuss how we can collectively reimagine community healthcare to address those disparities.
It was the peak of COVID-19 and their patient suffered from pancreatitis. When she recovered, she was so grateful for the expert round-the-clock care provided by Coram nurses: Nancy Marlett, Mallory Young and Lucy Runnels, she made a very special video to let them know.
Nancy, Mallory and Lucy, thank you for nurturing your patient back to health through your medical expertise and dedication. You exemplify the very best in the profession.
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!
The coronavirus has touched all of our lives in one way or another. Children, in particular, are in an ongoing state of flux. Many classes in schools and colleges across the country have been upended. We did find an oasis in South Florida where an organization called Branches has been working diligently for over 25 years to serve the neighborhood’s youth and their families.
For the podcast (below) we spoke with executive director Brent McLaughlin and Kim Torres, Director of Student Services, and Branches partner Rosa Santiago — as well as students Kelson Baptiste, Vicshonda “Vicky” Bellany, and Melvin Amaya.
Aetna Better Health®, a Medicaid managed care plan in Florida, has a long-standing relationship with Branches as a community partner.
A global health pandemic comes with tremendous uncertainty and anxiety. Patients deserve stability and peace of mind when it comes to their health care — the last thing that should create additional concern is whether they can access the medicines or care they need while staying socially distant.
Recognizing our responsibility to provide patients with additional support at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, we tapped into our solutions to ensure that all patients continue to get their medications and care without leaving the home — and at a price they can afford.
Avoiding potential exposure without avoiding care
When the pandemic spread, routine and preventive medical care plummeted. In fact, Health Care Cost Institute estimates that millions of Americans continue to forego this type of care.
Avoiding health care needs can have serious consequences that come at a cost to individual health — and the system as a whole — in the future. Similarly, avoiding care for chronic conditions, such as diabetes and high blood pressure, can cause more problems down the road. Patients who stop taking needed medications, or don’t get started on them, also face the risk of complications.
Our digital and remote pharmacy touchpoints help to keep patients safe, healthy, and at home as much as possible. To help prevent potential gaps in care and keep people safe at home, CVS Health led an early effort with local agencies to change regulations and enable greater remote pharmacy care management. Additionally, we made changes to our business to help minimize trips to the pharmacy, including early refill prescriptions, expanded access to 90-day supplies of maintenance medications by mail and free prescription delivery from retail stores.
Specialty members warrant added attention
We are working with hospitals and providers across the country to continue to support solutions that create much-needed hospital bed capacity and ensure streamlined care for many specialty patients. Through Coram, clinicians can deliver a clinically appropriate in-home care setting for patients recovering from a range of illnesses, which can help minimize their risk of contracting COVID-19 during treatment.
For patients, especially those living with complex or chronic illnesses, ensuring an uninterrupted supply of needed medications is crucial to their care. In the face of the enormous pressure the COVID-19 pandemic has placed on the U.S. health care system, our responsibility to ensure members have affordable access to the medications they need – when they need them – is critical.
From the onset of the pandemic, we’ve adapted our business practices to maintain the services that our clients and more than 100 million Americans depend on. We recognize that for someone living with a condition, such as lupus or asthma, going without a medication can create negative and costly consequences.
Monitoring prescription supply to meet member needs
The current landscape has required the drug supply chain to be more responsive and effective. We work across the supply chain to carefully monitor prescription availability, potential shortages and spikes in demand. This way, we can stay one step ahead of utilization trends to help ensure that people have access to the medicines needed to manage their health and avoid costly complications down the road.
Using predictive analytics, we can monitor prescription usage trends and adapt drug supplies as needed.
Moving forward, it will be important to use these analytics not only to understand supply and demand trends but analyze where pharmaceutical ingredients are coming from. Early in the pandemic, we shifted our practices to account for COVID-19 spikes in locations like Northern Italy, India and China, which are central to the pharmaceutical supply chain.
Because no two clients’ needs are the same, we customize our services, tools and programs to deliver the greatest value to both clients and their unique member populations. As our clients face the economic realities as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, we’re working in a consultative role to ensure they can continue to keep their populations and workforces adherent to their medicines and care, which in turn creates positive health outcomes and drives longer-term health savings.
The pharmacy is the location where patients most frequently interact with their health care. By expanding health capabilities and services within our pharmacy benefits, we can have a positive impact on patient and member health. Beyond securing the lowest possible cost for medicines, we also work with clients to design benefits that include digital touchpoints and personalized support so that every member can start and stay on their medicines.
As telemedicine and digital health remain paramount, these digital touchpoints are critical in keeping our 100 million members engaged in their health.
Benefits that meet patients where they are
COVID-19 has underscored how important it is for us to maintain and enhance our services for clients and members in our physically distant world.
For example, members with chronic conditions have access to specially trained clinicians at their fingertips through our Pharmacy Advisor program. The program offers personalized support over the phone – or in person if preferred – for questions on managing a chronic condition, how different medicines may affect each other and how to handle side effects.
Through our nurse-led chronic care management program, Accordant, patients with rare, chronic diseases can get virtual support and remote monitoring to help with managing their benefits and conditions.
Our Point Solutions Management offering helps employers and health plans augment their pharmacy benefits with carefully vetted digital solutions that address key aspects of health care costs. These tools guide members in strategies to reduce worry and anxiety, improve heart health, get better sleep and make smarter nutritional choices. They are easy to use and come at no additional cost to members enrolled in a participating health plan.
We’re bringing these practical solutions to our clients and members through an integrated model that draws upon our deep knowledge, longstanding partnerships and industry expertise.