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CVS Health, Unite Us launch platform to address social determinants of health

CVS Health is launching "Destination Health," the first in a series of business programs with an enhanced focus on addressing social determinants of health. To do this, CVS Health will collaborate with Unite Us, a leading social care coordination platform, to help some of Aetna’s most vulnerable Medicaid and Dual eligible members more easily access social services within their community.

Select Aetna members will be able to use Unite Us’ aggregated network of social care providers, which they can find on their own through a proprietary technology resource developed by Unite Us. Members also can be referred by a community health provider or Aetna nurse case managers, who will receive information through this platform. The two companies also are exploring integration through various CVS Health retail assets.

The platform also includes the investments being made at the community level as part of the recently announced Building Healthier Communities initiative, which is a $100 million commitment being funded over five years by CVS Health and the CVS Health and Aetna Foundations, intended to make community health and wellness central to the company’s corporate social responsibility platform — Better Health, Better Community, Better World.

“Out of about 6,000 waking hours in a year, most people only spend a handful in a doctor’s office or hospital — you spend the vast majority of your time in your community,” said Karen Lynch, executive vice president at CVS Health and president at Aetna. “CVS Health is a part of nearly 10,000 communities across the country, so by going beyond our significant philanthropic efforts and addressing social determinants of health through the products and programs our company develops, we have an unprecedented opportunity to improve the health of individuals and communities across America.”

CVS Health and Unite Us will make these programs and services available to Aetna Medicaid members in Louisville, Ky., in the second half of the year. During this same time, the programs and services also will be available to Aetna’s Dual-Eligible Special Needs Plan members, who are people eligible for both Medicaid and Medicare, in Tampa, Fla. and Southeastern Louisiana.

“Our mission is to connect individuals and families across the United States to the services they need through collaboration with local service providers, shared infrastructure, and an inclusive approach for those in need,” Unite Us co-founder and president Taylor Justice said. “Working with CVS Health, we will foster a community of care and a local support system to empower community members to make the most of the services available to them.”

In addition to being a community health issue, an inability to address social determinants of health also can result in higher healthcare costs and reduced worker productivity for employers, particularly businesses with a significant number of low wage workers.

Aetna has developed an analytics tool that will quantify the probable impact of social determinants of health on an employer’s health plan results. The first release of the tool with initial functionality is scheduled for this month, with additional capabilities planned for the next release scheduled for early 2020.

This tool also will help guide CVS Health across all lines of business to determine how the organization can most effectively deploy the right interventions to the plan sponsors and individuals who are most likely to benefit. These interventions could include such plan sponsor activities as plan design changes, provider network adjustments and refinements to clinical outreach.

Other actions could include collaborating with community organizations that are working on addressing social determinants of health and determining the best way to leverage the presence of CVS stores in the community. These types of interventions currently are being tested in pilot programs with several large employers.

CVS Health also is investing more than $50 million by the end of this year in affordable housing across the country to help provide support for underserved and at-risk populations.

In the past seven months, CVS Health and Aetna have closed on commitments to invest $40.5 million in affordable housing that will help construct or rehabilitate over 1,600 affordable housing units in 19 communities in six states.

These investments include over 100 permanent supportive housing units reserved for people requiring mental health service; are homeless or at‐risk of homelessness; have HIV/AIDS diagnoses; have substance abuse issues; or have long-term chronic health conditions.

The company and its investment partners are working with community organizations to provide access to such services as independent living skills, cooking and nutrition; financial literacy; health information classes; resident outreach and engagement; client centered treatment plans; and social support.

Since 1997, Aetna has invested more than $1 billion in affordable housing and community investments. These investments have led to the building and renovation of over 92,000 proprietary affordable rental units, positively impacting hundreds of thousands of low income individuals, families and seniors

“It’s hard to focus on your health when you are worried about your housing situation,” CVS Health vice president of community health and impact, and president at Aetna Foundation Garth Graham said. “Research has shown that providing safe and secure housing options can help improve health outcomes, particularly for individuals with chronic health conditions. Our continued investment in  affordable housing and ongoing collaboration with community groups can support those individuals that need it the most and help improve their health and well-being.”

Graham said that chronic diseases, such as diabetes, hypertension, COPD, and asthma are impacted by social determinants, such as housing, and where people live. "It's our strategy to address those things."

Graham expects pharmacists will play an important role in "Destination: Health," and addressing social determinants of health.

"Pharmacists remain on the front line in healthcare. Most patients have more interactions with their pharmacist than their physician. We hope to explore ways in which pharmacists would be able to help tackle some of these social determinants, by identifying and working on particular issues. We see social determinants as something that all healthcare leaders, pharmacists being one, would want to have on their agenda," said Graham.

Finally, Graham said that social determinants have become a priority for health and healthcare and remain a way in which "we can invest and tackle community health challenges and make healthcare better for the people in those local communities. It’s something we’re proud of taking a leadership role in, but there are other partners."

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