Employers and other business leaders face trying times as they work to maintain business operations during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Some face actual or potential layoffs. Other tasks include identifying essential business functions, making backup plans, and managing crisis communications – all while protecting their employees from the virus.1, 2
Some protective measures will depend upon the exact nature of each business (physical layout, etc.). But the recommendation by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for organizations to practice social distancing is common to every business.3
Home delivery is one solution
One thing the experts agree on is that promoting the use of mail or home delivery of routine prescription medications can help limit the risk of COVID-19 virus exposure for employees, their families and the general public.1, 2, 4, 5Consistent with government guidances, during the ongoing health emergency, OptumRx has lifted restrictions on retail pharmacies mailing prescriptions to our members. Additionally, your members continue to have access to home delivery of routine medications through our Optum Home Delivery.
Let’s review three specific ways home delivery of routine medications is right for this time: better medication adherence, and lower medication costs.
Home delivery can lead to better health
Certainly anyone who has a chronic, underlying condition will need to be especially vigilant against exposure over the coming months.6 And while home delivery can definitely help lower that risk, we have also found that members who use home delivery have higher medication adherence, which can contribute to improved outcomes.
It’s a well-established principle that better adherence to prescribed medications is associated with improved clinical outcomes and reduced mortality for chronic diseases.7 In a recent study, we reviewed our top three therapeutic classes: diabetes, hypertension, and statin use. We found that, on average, patients have over 20% higher medication adherence when using home delivery vs. 30-day retail. (Even when compared against 90-day retail plans, home delivery adherence is still 5.5% higher.8)
In part these results stem from the built-in consistency and convenience of the home delivery model. But there may also be an advantage from the significant improvements we have made to our customer service process.
OptumRx members who have questions about their medications can speak directly to an expert group of consulting pharmacists who spend more than 70% of their time consulting with patients. By comparison, a retail pharmacist may have less than 30% of their time for consultation.9 That pharmacy staff is available 24 hours a day.
Your employees are also incented with direct savings through home delivery simply by the way the benefit is structured. The most common home delivery pharmacy plan designs allow members get a 90-day supply (which would ordinarily cost three copays) by paying two and one half copays. So, just for illustration, that means instead of paying $30 (3 x $10), they would pay only $25 (2.5 x $10). Our analysis shows that members who use home delivery pharmacy plan designs with a 2.5X copayment will typically see savings of at least 17%.10
Overcoming member concerns
Even before the pandemic hit, online sales of consumer goods had been growing strongly for the past decade. And, online sales of personal care items such as vitamins, over-the-counter and prescription medications were already projected to grow by over 90% in just the next five years.11
And yet, experts note that there may still be members who have not taken advantage of their existing home delivery benefit for various reasons. This may be due to reluctance, or to a lack of understanding of how home delivery works.12
We know that members will inevitably have questions about the availability of their medicines. Accordingly, we are proactively reaching out to members with emails and letters specific to COVID-19 and have also made this information prominently available on our digital properties. In addition, our pharmacists and customer service advocates are fully trained and supported to manage any requests from members.
OptumRx clients can also choose to have proactive outreach to their members specifically to offer the option of home delivery. Speak to your consultant or OptumRx representative for details.
In addition, we have created a number of employee-facing resources that you are free to forward throughout your organization:
These short videos explain some of the key features of our online home delivery tools:
Whether members choose to use our website, mobile app or contact us by phone, we will work to seamlessly transition their prescriptions so that they can quickly realize the savings, convenience and safety of home delivery.
1. Aon plc. COVID-19 Response Site. COVID-19 Response Planning Preparedness Considerations. Accessed March 31, 2020.
2. McKinsey & Company. COVID-19: Briefing note, March 30, 2020. Accessed March 31, 2020.
3. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Interim Guidance for Businesses and Employers to Plan and Respond to Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19). Page last reviewed: March 22, 2020. Accessed March 31, 2020.
4. Willis Towers Watson. COVID-19 employee benefits checklist. Posted March 20, 2020. Accessed March 31, 2020.
5. The Segal Group. What Might Be the Health Plan Cost Impact of COVID-19? Accessed April 1, 2020.
6. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases (NCIRD), Division of Viral Diseases. People Who Are at Higher Risk for Severe Illness. Page last reviewed April 2, 2020. Accessed April 3, 2020.
7. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. CDC Grand Rounds: Improving Medication Adherence for Chronic Disease Management — Innovations and Opportunities. Page last reviewed: November 16, 2017. Accessed April 2, 2020.
8. Medication Adherence among Mail-order Pharmacy Users versus Retail Pharmacy Users. OptumRx Clinical Analytics – Home Delivery vs. Retail Study: Jan 2018-Dec, 2018 for Direct Commercial in 3 classes.
9. Drug Topics. Pharmacist workload and time management. Published February 19, 2001. Accessed April 2, 2020.
10. Savings estimate based on OptumRx analysis of 2.5X copayment Home Delivery pharmacy plan designs.
11. eMarketer, What's Driving Online Sales of Health, Personal Care and Beauty Products? Published June 2019. Accessed April 3, 2020.
12. Willis Towers Watson. Employers concerned COVID-19 will limit employee access to medications. Posted March 16, 2020. Accessed March 30, 2020.