Patients seek direct care from dispensers and providers during disasters. These include pharmacies, health clinics, other healthcare facilities and their professional staff.
Dispensers and providers are the final step in the supply chain, but often the “face” of the healthcare system with which patients interact, setting them up to be a critical juncture.
CVS Health is the nation's premier health innovation company helping people on their path to better health. Whether in one of its pharmacies or through its health services and plans, CVS Health is pioneering a bold new approach to total health by making quality care more affordable, accessible, simple and seamless. With more than 9,900 retail locations, 1,100 walk-in medical clinics, a leading pharmacy benefits manager with 94 million members, CVS Health is community-based and locally focused, engaging consumers with the care they need when and where they need it.
As the need for more accessible, integrated health care continues to evolve, CVS Health has expanded its business model beyond the traditional role of pharmacy care, broadening its physical and digital touch points to meet the needs of the communities in which it operates. During the 2017 hurricane season, the deep community ties, resources, and resilience of CVS were fully demonstrated across the affected areas.
For example, before the hurricanes made landfall, CVS Health deployed backup generators to their facilities to ensure pharmacy operations could continue for patients if and when power outages occurred. The company also sent prescription refill reminder phone calls, emails, and text alerts to patients in the areas expected to be impacted by the hurricanes. These alerts helped ensure patients were proactively prepared with a sufficient supply of needed medicines in case of severe infrastructure damage and/or evacuation.
In the aftermath of the hurricanes, CVS Health deployed staff and resources to help ensure access to medicines and treatment. For example, the company deployed mobile pharmacy support to impacted areas, including one mobile unit and several ‘pop up’ pharmacies across several state shelter locations. The ‘pop up’ pharmacy model allows for a more agile approach to service impacted areas where a mobile pharmacy unit may not be available or feasible. The units operated from 8 am to 8 pm and allowed evacuees to purchase medications, receive vaccines, and refill or pick up prescriptions. Additionally, CVS Pharmacy and CVS Caremark (the retail pharmacy and pharmacy benefit management business units, respectively) activated a process allowing pharmacists to fill one-time emergency refills of a 10-day supply of prescription medicines for those impacted by the hurricanes.
The role of health care companies during emergencies and disasters is expanding, and therefore CVS’s capabilities and resources are too becoming increasingly important. Though public-private partnerships, engagement on forward-thinking policies and regulations, and thoughtful engagement on existing barriers and challenges, CVS Health’s commitment to helping patients during emergencies and disasters will continue to be a crucial public benefit. By September 2017, the CVS Health Foundation had donated over $525,000 collectively to hurricane relief efforts. The generosity of CVS to assist with Hurricane relief has helped communities recover and saved countless lives.
Source: Healthcare Ready interview
Pharmacies proved to be a crucial anchor for the communities affected by the 2017 hurricane season. In addition to providing key healthcare services – including free telehealth visits through MDLive – Walgreens helped affected individuals and families with reliable access to basic essentials.
Amidst infrastructure destruction and dangerous conditions – including lack of gas, electricity, water and other basic essentials – Walgreens pharmacies were critical access points for resources beyond treatments and cures. People used Walgreens stores to communicate with family and loved ones, withdraw cash, charge their devices and obtain food and water.
With over 100 stores on the island, Walgreens was an important anchor organization for Puerto Rico during and in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria. Ensuring access to needed healthcare services, medicines, vaccines and equipment in Puerto Rico was a unique challenge for public and private companies alike. Puerto Rico’s travel and transport barriers were exacerbated magnitudes above those of an inland area.
Through strategic relationships with community organizations, Walgreens was able to quickly identify needs, locally source medicines and work with healthcare distributor AmerisourceBergen and other local courier services to make deliveries to remote locations and facilities. While navigating around lack of airport access to gas and power outages, Walgreens and partners went above and beyond to help provide access to healthcare for those impacted on the island.
When it made landfall as a Category 4 storm on October 10th, 2018, Hurricane Michael brought unprecedented damage to the Florida panhandle. Healthcare Ready connected with emergency medical services in the area to follow healthcare needs as the storm hit. One of the local hospitals, Calhoun-Liberty, was in particular need of medical supplies, having been a central point of care for many residents in the area.
OptumRx, a pharmacy care services company, was standing by to help, having informed Healthcare Ready about their supplies and response capability ahead of the storm. Healthcare Ready connected OptumRx to Calhoun-Liberty Hospital, and OptumRx mobilized rapidly to match their available supplies to the needs of the hospital. The OptumRx team assembled a shipment of emergency kits and prescription drug donations with over 200 products ranging from over-the-counter painkillers and anesthetics to antibiotics.
By pre-staging supplies and quickly responding to the call for support, OptumRx helped ensure the hospital could continue serving residents living in Calhoun county, one of the areas hardest hit by Hurricane Michael. Together with other Optum businesses and as part of UnitedHealth Group, OptumRx continued to support recovery by donating half a million dollars to the Florida Disaster Fund.
Source: Healthcare Ready interview
In 2017, there were over 11,000 opioid related deaths reported in Florida, a state facing an undeniable opioid crisis. In responding to a disaster that coincides with a widespread opioid overdose epidemic like this one, an essential part of a first responder’s emergency kit is Narcan, a medication that reverses the effects of an opioid overdose.
Less than three days after Hurricane Michael made landfall, the Red Cross reached out to Healthcare Ready for potential sources of Narcan, explaining that hundreds of doses were needed for shelters across the region. As displaced individuals sought refuge from the destruction of Hurricane Michael, operators of American Red Cross shelters in Tallahassee wanted to ensure they had a surplus of these life-saving kits.
When Healthcare Ready spread awareness of this atypical disaster relief need, OptumRx was right there to answer the call. OptumRx donated and shipped 500 Narcan kits to Red Cross shelter managers in the state. The preemptive deployment of these Narcan kits provided first responders with a life-saving tool that was undoubtedly crucial in shelters in a state plagued by an opioid crisis.
Source: Healthcare Ready interview
Patients face myriad challenges in accessing the medications they need, especially the more than 30 million Americans who are either uninsured or underinsured. Nearly fifteen years ago, the Partnership for Prescription Assistance (PPA) was formed by American biopharmaceutical companies, and partners, seeking to assist those patients who depend on the medications they manufacture and distribute. PPA was a partnership of over 50 organizations – from the United Way to the National Association of Chain Drug Stores –that offered a tool which connects the most vulnerable patients to affordable medication.
The PPA tool pointed patients to programs that could help them get their medications at low or no cost and provided direct access to applications for these programs. All that was required of the patient was time to fill out a quick questionnaire that included a “Natural Disaster Worksheet,” recognizing that patients recovering from a disaster may be dealing with additional challenges that are not always addressed. The patient could also use the PPA tool to locate free and low-cost clinics near them.
Connecting patients with their medications is a critical step in fostering disaster resilience, helping to promote medication adherence and enable continuity of care. The PPA tool collated many programs and resources into a single point of access that was easy to use. Since its creation, PPA has helped over 10 million American patients.