CVS Caremark's Accordant subsidiary has launched a new program that aims to help patients with pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH) better manage their own conditions.
The offering, launched as part of the broader AccordantRare Care initiative, connects patients with the disease to Caremark nurses who will check in with them regularly and help with understanding medications, identifying risks and screening for comorbidities.
PAH is a rare, serious lung condition in which the blood vessels in the lungs narrow, leading to high blood pressure in the pulmonary artery. If untreated, it can lead to complications including heart failure.
Because the disease is complex and may require a complicated treatment regimen, patients may feel overwhelmed and unable to take an active role in managing their condition, said Andrew Krueger, M.D., senior medical director at Accordant Health Services, in an interview with Fierce Healthcare.
"It’s that knowledge and those insights of how things work and what I have to do that are critical for a patient to self-manage," he said.
The costs associated with treating the disease are also high, Caremark said, on average totaling more than $40,000 per year, with 36% of costs coming from emergency departments for symptoms such as arrhythmias, pulmonary embolism or cardiac arrest.
Connecting with patients often and at multiple touchpoints can ensure they're equipped to adhere appropriately to their treatment plans and identify potential signs of worsening disease more quickly.
In addition, managing diseases like PAH can have major impacts on the quality of life for patients and caregivers. The Accordant team offers support to caregivers as well and will screen patients for depression or behavioral health needs that could prevent them from more effective self-management.
Krueger said the nurses are able to consult with one another, which can lead them to treatment options they may not otherwise have thought of.
The program, he said, is also often a boon to patients' primary care providers, as primary care docs themselves may not have the ability to check in with patients as often or may not have treated a patient with such a complex and rare disease before.
He added that patients develop a close relationship with their nursing teams and say they feel more comfortable talking with CVS nurses about their symptoms and the challenges they may be facing in managing their PAH.
"I think that means they’re receptive, they’re interested, they learn stuff, and that is the only path for them to be better self-managers," Krueger said.