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CVS, HHS examine pharmacy outreach in disaster planning

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Study: Auto notifications spur patients to maintain Rx regimen

WOONSOCKET, R.I. — Automated pharmacy notifications prompt patients with chronic conditions to refill prescriptions before a forecasted natural disaster, a new study by CVS Health and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) finds.

CVS said the research also affirmed that public-private partnerships can aid pharmacy outreach as part of community-based natural disaster planning. As part of its natural disaster response operations, CVS Pharmacy is expanding this practice by recommending that patients have an adequate supply of medication on hand when preparing for natural disasters, such as hurricanes and blizzards.

The study, by the CVS Health Research Institute and HHS’ Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response (ASPR), was published online Monday by the medical journal JAMA Internal Medicine.

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CVS deployed mobile pharmacies in West Virginia and Baton Rouge, La., this summer to help patients impacted by devastating floods.

“Ensuring our patients have their medications available to them is one of our top priorities, and this research highlights how proactive outreach to patients before a natural disaster can encourage timely medication refills, which may help ensure continuity of care and avoid adverse health events due to inadequate medication supply,” Kevin Hourican, executive vice president of pharmacy services and supply chain at CVS Health, said in a statement.

“Operationally, we have the infrastructure in place at all of our more than 9,600 CVS Pharmacy locations nationwide to facilitate this type of proactive outreach in advance of forecasted weather events,” he noted.

Researchers compared the medication fill rates of more than 2 million patients contacted by CVS Pharmacy before a storm to a randomly assigned control group of patients of the same stores who weren’t contacted. The store locations were chosen based on storm forecast data provided by ASPR. Those who received outreach ahead of the storm were 9% more likely to refill their medications within the 48 hours after receiving the notification and before the storm impacted the region, the study found.

“Emergency departments and medical responders can be overwhelmed by the number of people seeking medical care after a disaster, simply because they ran out of their daily medications and couldn’t reach a pharmacy due to impassable streets and business closures,” stated Nicole Lurie, assistant secretary for preparedness and response at HHS. “The number of people who need medications for chronic conditions continues to rise, and communities across the country need solutions that can help them stay healthy, even in a disaster situation. This study demonstrated how powerful public-private partnerships can be in providing solutions that can protect health for residents and whole communities.”

CVS Pharmacy can reach out to patients on maintenance medications for chronic conditions who live in areas where community infrastructure could be disrupted by a forecasted storm. The company said patients who have opted into CVS’ automated notification programs can get automated phone calls, texts and mobile app notifications to let them know when their prescription is for pickup, remind them that their prescription is ready for refill, and inform them where they can pick up their medications in an emergency.

The notifications also may provide information on the availability of mobile pharmacies deployed during natural disasters, which CVS did this past summer to help patients displaced by flooding in West Virginia and Baton Rouge, La.

“Our digital notification tools can also assist patients following a severe weather event or natural disaster by notifying patients of store closures and suggesting alternate locations to pick up their prescription medications,” Hourican added.


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