Lending a Hand

Helping the Puerto Rico Community, Patients and Colleagues Rebuild
Icon of rainclouds
October 9, 2017
Former Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer, CVS Health

Planning for the safety of our patients, consumers and communities is a key focus for our colleagues. On the heels of Hurricane Irma, when Hurricane Maria threatened Puerto Rico, colleagues across CVS Health mobilized to help ensure that patients — including those using CVS Specialty — had the medications they needed during the storm. After the storm, they came together as a family to help the community recover and provide help and support to the patients that rely on them.

Before the Storm

  • Identified all patients with a refill due in 7-10 days.
  • Identified critical patient populations — those with prescriptions for pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH), hemophilia or oncology medications.
  • Made thousands of calls, and sent hundreds of texts and letters to help ensure patients had medications on hand.
  • Identified if medications needed to be sent to a different address. Reshipped any medications that had already been shipped. Confirmed delivery dates through texts.
  • Where necessary, changed the pharmacy the medication was shipped from to avoid storm delays.
  • Contacted relatives on file and doctors' offices.
  • Local CVS Specialty team cleared a freezer and filled it with water so there would be ice available after the storm to keep medications cold.

During the Storm

  • Rerouted calls to other pharmacies that have Spanish-speaking staff.
  • Contractors were asked to be on standby with refrigerated trucks, along with a generator, security and refrigeration monitoring systems.
  • Engaged local couriers and monitored the gas situation to ensure fuel was available for generators and that medications that needed refrigeration could be kept cold.

After the Storm

  • The first CVS Pharmacy locations opened the day curfew was lifted — 23 of 25 were open within one week after the storm.
  • With no airlines or delivery services flying in and out, CVS Health enlisted the corporate jet to fly medication supplies for patients with complex conditions, such as PAH or cancer, in Puerto Rico.
  • CVS Pharmacy team sent a barge filled with water and other supplies — for colleagues and customers.
  • Drivers took turns delivering medication to parts of the community that were accessible and waited in the five-hour long fuel lines to keep deliveries and generators going.
  • Worked with Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the American Red Cross to reach patients in shelters.
  • Government Affairs team partnered with FEMA to ensure fuel was available.

Partnering Across the Industry

  • Like CVS Specialty, another pharmacy benefit manager also had specialty patients - including those with PAH - on the island, but no local pharmacy presence or distribution network.
  • We shared our plan for using the corporate plane to deliver critical medications.
  • Once medications and pharmacy personnel arrived in Puerto Rico, we collaborated with them so they could use office space in CVS Pharmacy locations and refrigerator space to store temperature-sensitive medications.
  • We also shared the blueprint for our local specialty medication distribution and strategies, such as engaging couriers to reach patients in remote areas of the island.
  • Having a local presence, distribution network and a preparedness plan in place allowed us to provide them unique assistance to help patients.

Coming Together as a Team for the Good of the Community

  • Store/pharmacy (Specialty Operations team) staff made space, and a telephone, available in front reception area for community members who needed to reach family and friends on the mainland.
  • For patients who had lost power and lived near the pharmacy, staff offered to store medications requiring refrigeration.
  • The team used all available means to reach patients – personal cell phones, text, even reverting to old-fashioned mailed letters.
  • The company worked with pharmaceutical manufacturers to get waivers to serve any patient needing specialty medications — even those who were not CVS Specialty patients.
  • As the island continues to recover, the team makes sandwiches, coffee and lunch on location each day so that colleagues who are helping patients do not have to worry about where, and how, to get food.

We believe we have a role to play in helping Puerto Rico rebuild. To date, CVS Pharmacy customers have donated nearly $4 million as part of our in-store fundraising campaign. The company will donate more than $6 million in critical product and supplies, for total support of $10 million, to be split evenly between Unidos por Puerto Rico, Rebuild Texas Fund and the Florida Disaster Fund, to support rebuilding efforts.

CVS Health Puerto Rico colleagues were themselves affected by Hurricane Maria, including two who lost their homes. To support our colleagues while they work to help the community, we are making grants of up to $1,000 available from the Employee Relief Fund. Thousands of colleagues around the country, including leaders of the Loss Prevention team, have also donated funds anonymously to send much needed supplies to the 787 colleagues in Puerto Rico. Donations included gas cans, single-burner stoves, portable showers and air mattresses. 

Want to learn more about our commitment to community? Ask Us
October 9, 2017
Former Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer, CVS Health

Explore Programs

Patient Care

Delivering whole-person care with a personal touch for patients with complex, chronic conditions helps improve outcomes and keep payor costs low.

Member Engagement

Our success in helping people on the path to better health depends on how well we engage members and encourage them to take the right steps.

Improving Health

Optimizing prescription therapy is key to improving outcomes for chronic conditions that drive a majority of health care spend.