Emergency Response Mobile Alerts Expand Community Pharmacies' Outreach

The advancements of digital technology in the health care landscape are familiar, but officials with CVS are taking it a step further with a digital strategy that can help broaden community outreach in the event of a natural disaster.

The advancements of digital technology in the health care landscape are familiar, but officials with CVS are taking it a step further with a digital strategy that can help broaden community outreach in the event of a natural disaster. The new initiative, demonstrated in a study published in JAMA Internal Medicine, provides automated pharmacy notifications that remind patients with chronic conditions to refill needed medications before a forecasted weather event.1

Since natural disasters have the potential to disrupt communities, patients may find themselves unable to receive medications from their pharmacies following an event. CVS Pharmacy remedied the problem with their own solution: digital notifications in the form of either phone calls, text messages, or mobile app alerts that provide important information regarding their medications before and after emergency weather situations. The notifications alert patients in the affected areas by reminding patients when their prescription is ready to pick up or be refilled, and informing them on available locations for pick-up, including mobile pharmacies that may be available during natural disasters.

Research led by CVS Health Research Institute and the US Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response studied the effect of automated pharmacy medication notifications as a natural disaster response measure.

The study researchers compared the medication fill rates of more than 2 million patients contacted by CVS ahead of a forecasted weather event to a randomly assigned control group of patients who were not contacted. Patients who received prior outreach were 9% more likely to refill medications within 48 hours of receiving the notification.

The automated messages are more than a medication reminder. They are a way for pharmacies to stay connected with patients in emergencies and ensure that they receive needed access to their prescriptions. Adding digital components to a pharmacies’ means of communication offers a convenience to patients that can improve their adherence to prescription medications.

“Ensuring our patient 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 press release.

More than 9600 CVS pharmacies nationwide have implemented this kind of proactive outreach in advance of forecasted natural disasters, Hourican adds. The digital alerts can help prepare patients following severe weather as well by notifying them of store closures and offering alternative locations to pick up their prescription medications.

Reference

  • CVS Health and HHS Study Finds Proactive Pharmacy-based Outreach Helps Patients Access Needed Medications during a Natural Disaster. [news release]. Woonsocket, RI. CVS Health. http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/cvs-health-and-hhs-study-finds-proactive-pharmacy-based-outreach-helps-patients-access-needed-medications-during-a-natural-disaster-300372356.html#continue-jump. Accessed Dec. 28, 2016.