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Customizing care for you during COVID-19

By Eric Spitznagel

It’s easy to feel overwhelmed in the era of COVID-19. With so many new restrictions, it can be confusing to know where to begin with your medical care, like when you should make a doctor’s appointment.

But as an Aetna Better Health® (ABH) member, you are not alone. A care manager is there to help when you feel lost about the next steps.

A care manager is your health “tour guide.” Their job is to help you with the health care system, from working with you to create a personalized care plan to finding the best medical resources for your needs.

We spoke to two Aetna care managers, Laurie and Jenna, and asked them to share ways they’ve helped members.

Laurie recently helped a member who was in the hospital after being diagnosed with COVID-19.

“They discharged her within 24 hours, which she found confusing,” says Laurie. “She still had shortness of breath and weakness. She was scared and didn’t know what to do.”

But her fears disappeared after her first meeting with Laurie, who was assigned as her care manager. Laurie listened to her situation, looking for ways to make the member’s life easier so she could focus on her recovery. “She needed a walker, a commode by her bedside and transportation to get prescriptions,” Laurie says. “Within 24 hours, she got everything she needed.”

One of the most important things she needed, Laurie says, was “the reassurance that there was somebody there trying to help her.”

Coordinate medical appointments

When the member under Laurie’s care who was diagnosed with COVID-19 returned to her home after just one night at the hospital, she was not sure when (or if) she’d be able to see a doctor again. But Laurie made sure she was not forgotten. 

“I immediately set up an appointment with a doctor to talk with her by phone,” Laurie says. Even if the member did not have any urgent medical needs, it was important during a coronavirus infection for her to have symptoms checked by a professional. 

Knowing she would be able to communicate with a doctor put her at ease as she improved. “She completely recovered from COVID,” Laurie is happy to report.

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Connect with a home-delivered-meal provider

When a 98-year-old member could not attend his adult care program because of the COVID-19 restrictions, Jenna realized he would be missing out on two meals a day.

Because of his financial situation, he did not have money to buy his own groceries. Even if he had, getting to a grocery store would have been difficult. “He’s very isolated because he lives in a rural county,” Jenna says.

So, Jenna sprang into action, setting up the member with Mom’s Meals, a free home-delivered meal service that is available in many states through the Agency on Aging. She helped him sign up for the program, which guaranteed him three meals per day delivered to his home.

But Jenna did not stop there. Because the program did not begin immediately, she personally went to a grocery store for food, paper towels and toiletries. 

Arrange for help with medications

For many people, picking up prescriptions has become hard due to COVID-19. Laurie recently worked with a member whose closest pharmacy did not have a drive-up window. “This pharmacy wouldn’t allow a family member to get medications without the member present,” Laurie says. 

When faced with problems like this, a care manager is there to help find solutions. “I was able to get her meds switched over to a different pharmacy with a drive-up window,” says Laurie. “Her son was able to get the meds and bring them back.”

Laurie later got the member enrolled in a medical transport program, which provides free rides to and from the pharmacy. “It’s all worked out very well,” says Laurie.

Get health coaching

Your health journey does not begin and end with medication. Getting off the couch and on your feet may be one of the best types of preventative care.

Jenna recently worked with a member who wanted to lose weight. But being stuck inside because of the COVID quarantine meant she had fewer ways to exercise. Jenna connected her with resources that could help her continue pursuing her weight loss goals while remaining at home. 

There are weight management programs available in some states that include phone appointments with a health coach or dietitian. In some cases, members may even qualify for benefits like a free pedometer to track the number of daily steps.

Take advantage of special benefits

One of Jenna’s favorite parts of being a care manager is telling members about extra benefits they might not know they had.

“When they get an annual physical or a mammogram, for instance, or preventative care like a colonoscopy or prostate cancer screening, they may be eligible for gift cards,” she says.

She loves being able to surprise those members with a gift card when they have gotten their flu shot for the year, and if their state offers it and they are eligible. “Especially when it’s around Christmastime,” she adds.

It gives them a little extra motivation to make smart lifestyle choices, Jenna says. “And there’s nothing additional they need to do if they are eligible. They just take care of their health, and they get rewarded for it. That’s a nice feeling.”

About the author

Eric Spitznagel is a frequent contributor to Vanity Fair, Billboard, Men's Health, Playboy, The New York Post, and the New York Times Magazine, among others. He's published eight books, including his latest "Old Records Never Die: One Man's Quest for His Vinyl and His Past." He lives in Chicago with his wife and an 8-year-old amateur scientist.

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