By: Beatrice Silva
3 min read November 2020 — Although major obstacles stemming from the pandemic have led to a slowdown, the healthcare sector in Philadelphia has continued to demonstrate steadfast resilience and adaptability. Among companies in the sector, there is an understanding that adaptability to the communities’ changing needs isn’t just necessary, it’s vital. While the future may be uncertain, it’s important to maintain a cautiously optimistic attitude. Invest: Philadelphia spoke with both Remy Richman, vice president of Strategic Programs for Aetna, and Samuel Menaged, founder and president of The Renfrew Center, about impacts caused by the pandemic and how each company is paving the way toward a transformative future and more affordable healthcare.
How has your organization performed this past year?
Remy Richman: Despite the pandemic, we have been incredibly busy, anticipating the needs of our customers and colleagues during this ever-changing time. As the virus started impacting Philadelphia in the early days of spring 2020, we were focused on two key priorities: our customers and our employees. These two priorities became our North Star in terms of the lens through which we would continue to make decisions through the weeks and months to follow. The health and well-being of both stakeholders were the focus of every decision we would make as a business.
Our teams rapidly responded and drove the innovation of new products and programs. Our care management teams proactively reached out to members most at-risk for COVID-19 and we waived early refill limits and charges for home delivery of prescription medications. We also shipped Healing Better COVID-19 care packages to members’ homes after they were discharged from the hospital with a confirmed COVID-19 diagnosis. The packages contained useful information and resources to help recover, as well as personal and household cleaning supplies to help keep others in the home protected from potential exposure.
As part of our comprehensive efforts to slow the spread, we opened more than 4,000 COVID test sites at CVS pharmacies and locations across the country, including over 250 sites in Pennsylvania and New Jersey. In June 2020, we launched Return Ready, a comprehensive, customizable COVID-19 testing solution for employers and universities.
Samuel Menaged: We are very pleased The Renfrew Center has continued its growth during this past year – both internally and externally. Externally, prior to the disruptions caused by COVID-19, to better meet an increase in demand for eating disorder treatment services as well as the evolving needs of our patient base, we relocated several sites throughout the country. On a local level, our residential facility in Roxborough and outpatient facilities in Center City Philadelphia and Radnor continue to do well. Increased awareness of the new Center City location has attracted the attention of college students and working women, making it convenient to avail themselves of the variety of scheduling options. Working with the local community and expanding our programming offerings has allowed us to help lower barriers to care for these busy students and working women alike, further cementing our unique position within the city.
How has the insurance landscape evolved since the COVID-19 outbreak?
Richman: It has evolved tremendously. One of the silver linings in terms of lessons learned is the adoption of virtual care and telemedicine. For us, simplicity, affordability and access to our members have always been some of the most critical values we can deliver. The rapid adoption and the transformation that several providers were willing to take with us to be able to support their patients was remarkable. We are excited about what we are seeing now in terms of the enthusiasm among consumers and patients who have tried virtual or telemedicine in some capacity, enjoyed it and we expect will continue to use those types of services. We are starting to tip the scale, unlocking opportunities for consumers to trust seeing their physician and prevent themselves from making that extra trip.
As rates in the industry continue to rise, how is The Renfrew Center working to provide affordable healthcare?
Menaged: We are committed to expanding access to care for those who are not able to get it. I am personally involved in lobbying for mental healthcare and remote mental healthcare, particularly through the Eating Disorder Coalition, an organization I helped found.
Through this work, there are several bills pending, including the bipartisan Healthcare at Home Act, which would ensure telemedicine services are covered by insurance companies at the same rate as normally covered services. Most insurance companies have now been mandated by governors to pay for telehealth services. There is also the bipartisan Telemedicine Act, with the requirement that commercial insurance plans cover telehealth.
What is your outlook for the healthcare industry heading into 2021?
Richman: We are excited about continuing to combine the assets and the portfolio across the entire CVS Health enterprise, including the 11,000 retail locations throughout the community. Several clinical programs operate across both Aetna and CVS, so the ability to provide a differentiated consumer experience using our multiple-channel opportunity is unrivaled in our industry. In the greater Philadelphia area, we have more than 40 transformational CVS HealthHUB locations and we expect to see that number increase, parallel to a simplified, more affordable and accessible transformation of healthcare over the next several years.
Menaged: The most important part of mental health treatment is reaching people, helping them recognize they have a problem and educating them on the options available. With that recognition that they have a problem, we help them understand how important it is to have hope and never to give up, because recovery is possible. I’m confident the Center City, Philadelphia site will continue to grow. Additional sites may be added at some point in different parts of the city because there are always more people in need of treatment and we can be of help.
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