Automated phone calls and text alerts to pharmacy customers who are soon to be impacted by a crisis, urging them to pick up their prescriptions early, leads to an increase in refills and likely better access to medications.

On January 20, 2016, the Department of Health and Human Services identified Jonas, a blizzard projected to affect the Mid-Atlantic United States, as having the potential to restrict the public’s ability to get to their pharmacies. On January 21 and 22, before the storm, CVS pharmacies contacted 2.1 million patients who were taking long-term medications, had filled a medication in the past 90 days, and were customers at more than 600 stores in Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia, Kentucky, and Washington, DC, urging them to check their medication supply. Of those customers, 1.28 million contacts were via automated telephone calls and 702,000 via text message, based on customers’ prespecified preferences (anticipatory outreach group). For comparison, no anticipatory outreach was delivered to customers of the same stores with 20 randomly selected dates of birth (control group).

Within 48 hours, 4.5% of patients in the anticipatory outreach group refilled a medication, compared with 4.1% in the control group, representing an approximately 9% increase in the 48 hours after outreach.

The utilization of telecom technologies, combined with strong partnerships between public and private entities, is critical to fostering public health resilience within communities, particularly in the face of crises. In the case of Jonas, the rapid execution of a pragmatic intervention was associated with small but clear increases in acquisition of chronic medications as the blizzard approached the Mid-Atlantic region in 2016.

Source: JAMA Network