The pharmacy is the most used touchpoint in health care. For the most vulnerable populations, especially those in rural and underserved communities, community and independent pharmacies are a vital part of providing patients with access to the care they need. These pharmacies – and the pharmacists who have built trusted relationships with their patients – serve as a critical touch point on the front lines of care to drive better health outcomes and identify unmet medical and social needs.
To support their efforts, Optum Rx is launching initiatives that will support pharmacists in connecting their patients to services that address basic needs such as food, nutrition, transportation, housing, and baby supplies.
The initiatives will focus in three critical areas:
- Connecting underserved patients to community resources, beginning with pregnant women and patients with diabetes;
- Improving maternal and fetal health through increased preventative prenatal vitamin use, access to community diaper bank resources and baby supplies; and
- Providing increased access to health care resources through community pharmacies in health care deserts.
Launching in select states starting in June, the programs will be offered nationwide to all pharmacies later this year. Participating pharmacies will receive appropriate reimbursement for supporting patients in accessing medically necessary services that improve their health outcomes.
These programs kick off Optum Rx’s broader, industry-leading commitment to bridge resource gaps in the community, including strategies to care for underserved and rural populations and supporting community and independent pharmacies with solutions that simplify processes, promote payment predictability, enhanced reporting, and offer appropriate compensation for services that improve health outcomes.
Connecting patients to care to address unmet social needs
Many people lack access to necessities such as housing, transportation, and food, and Optum Rx is partnering with pharmacies to help address the needs of their patient population. The program, launching June 1, will support community pharmacies serving Optum Rx members in underserved and rural communities by helping them connect members to the Unite Us site, a nationwide technology platform that identifies social care needs to connect people with community services and resources at a local level.
The program will initially launch in North Carolina, Nebraska, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Texas, and Louisiana, and will focus on people with diabetes and pregnant women. In the Fall of 2023, these programs will roll out nationally.
“As one of the nation’s largest PSAOs, Health Mart Atlas is committed to helping strengthen the overall health of pharmacies and elevate the role they play in people’s lives. Collaborating with Optum Rx is an important extension of this work. Our participating pharmacies are well positioned to help address patient access to available resources in underserved communities.”
Crystal Lennartz | vice president, general manager, Health Mart Atlas & Atlas Specialty
Supporting maternal and fetal health
According to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC), the U.S. ranks last in all industrialized countries in maternal mortality, with a ratio of approximately 18 deaths per 100,000 pregnancies. Optum Rx’s Maternal & Fetal Health Program, launching in July, will support pharmacists in encouraging pregnant women to seek preventative prenatal care to decrease both pre-term labor and pregnancy complications to help ensure a healthier newborn.
This initiative is the latest in a larger effort to address maternal and infant health, with UnitedHealth Group currently investing nearly $9.3 million across 13 states to address the issue.
Expanding access to care in hard-to-reach communities
Many people across the country live in communities that are health care deserts, where people may not live near health care providers. Their lack of access to care contributes to poor health outcomes. Working with our pharmacy partners to address critical barriers to care, the Pharmacy & Provider Desert Program, launching in Fall 2023, will ensure members who live in health care deserts receive access to pharmacy and other health care services they need to promote optimal health outcomes.
“These initiatives provide opportunities not only to help patients, but also to offer appropriate compensation that recognizes the clinical expertise and unique capabilities our community and independent pharmacy partners have to meet the needs of their patients.”
Heather Cianfrocco | chief executive officer, Optum Rx