Healthcare Tech, Innovation
COVID-19, CVS Health

Stepping Up to Health Care’s Digital Challenge

This post by Firdaus Bhathena, Chief Digital Officer at CVS Health, originally appeared on LinkedIn.

Health care has been in the midst of a digital transformation that started long before the COVID-19 pandemic we find ourselves in today — increasingly leveraging technology, data and analytics to deliver more personalized, streamlined care. But in today’s uncertain environment, we’re seeing innovation in overdrive, as the world works to flatten the curve and ensure that everyone from patients to health care workers to frontline employees have access to the timely care and resources they need.

We need our health care experience to be clear, convenient and easy to navigate. This expectation has only increased in the time of COVID-19, as news and guidance are constantly changing, social distancing is the new norm and virtual connectivity keeps us in touch with our coworkers, friends and loved ones.

Now more than ever, digital is crucial for keeping us informed, connected and healthy. I’m proud that CVS Health is one of the many organizations that has stepped up to the digital challenge—expanding access to tools and technologies that face the pandemic head-on.

Look for the Innovators and Collaborators

Mr. Rogers’ reminder to the “look for the helpers” always brings me comfort, and there are so many digital leaders emerging as true helpers and heroes. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology has launched a website unveiling the MIT Emergency Ventilator Project, or E-Vent. As the world grapples with a shortage of ventilators for COVID-19 patients who experience respiratory failure, MIT is sharing the design of lower-cost ventilation devices. Production of these can be ramped up quickly pending FDA approval of the device under an Emergency Use Authorization.

Another is Project N95 a “medical equipment clearinghouse” quickly created by technology entrepreneurs to connect healthcare facilities in need of essential equipment—including masks, gowns and ventilators—with suppliers and producers. The platform is making progress on a supply-and-demand imbalance that continues to challenge governments, healthcare providers and equipment suppliers.

And hospitals, which have been slower to incorporate artificial intelligence (AI) programs into their daily workflow, are adopting AI tools to help screen and triage patients, as well as identify patients at greater risk of severe symptoms. Providers are also using device and wearables data to find individual cases and potential clusters, and using AI to track the virus in their own communities.

Physicians and nurses may be our most valuable resources in a pandemic, but the digital tools we have today are effectively extending the reach of these professionals to help more patients. And they’re enabling the creation of new tools that can help us turn the tide on this public health emergency.

Raising the bar at CVS Health

CVS Health has been launching new digital initiatives for years as we strive to deliver more personalized care, to more people, and in more treatment settings. And we’ve been ramping up these efforts quickly because of the spread of COVID-19, including:

  • Partnering with federal, state and local official to open rapid COVID-19 drive-through testing sites that leverage online scheduling to maximize safety and efficiency. These sites are crucial to manage the spread of the virus and provide on-the-spot test results.
  • Waiving costs for rapid COVID-19 diagnostic testing and care, including telehealth/virtual visits through Aetna’s mobile application and website, for eligible Aetna members.
  •  Leveraging our robust digital infrastructure to ensure prescription drugs get to the people who need them, without having to physically visit the pharmacy. Since March 9, we’ve helped more than 200,000 members refill their 30-day prescriptions early, and we’re projecting a 20 percent increase in members receiving 90-day prescriptions through the mail.

We’re also doing whatever we can for members who have chronic health conditions, including working with all PBM clients to waive early refill limits on 30-day prescription maintenance medications.

And we know these actions are resonating with consumers. For example, the daily volume of home delivery of prescriptions from our pharmacies is up by over 2,000% of the daily pre-COVID baseline just a few short weeks ago. I am proud of our teams across the CVS Health enterprise who make amazing things like this happen for the health and well-being of our customers.

Finding the Silver Linings

I have tried hard to be a glass-half-full person all my life. While the news is filled with frightening numbers and heart-wrenching stories, it’s important to look to the positive developments and examples that we can all be proud of. People who are in a position to help are doing everything they can — from physicians like my wife, who brave less-than-ideal circumstances to treat COVID-19 patients every day, to technologists and digital teams removing barriers to care for millions of people sheltered in place.

In the face of an unpredictable crisis, it’s inspiring to see digital stepping up to the challenge, delivering innovation, connection and help when we need it the most.

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