From the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic we have been told that the highest-risk populations are those with one or more pre-existing chronic conditions such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), asthma, heart disease, chronic heart failure (CHF) and diabetes.

It makes sense given the effect COVID-19 has on the cardiopulmonary system. Those whose systems are already compromised are far more susceptible to its effects, increasing the likelihood they will have a poor outcome if they contract it.

These factors speak to the urgency of ensuring that patients with these chronic conditions adhere to their medications as prescribed. Simply put, the better their general health is, the better they will be able to resist the virus if they are exposed for some reason.

While the obvious target for increased communications and education about medication efficacy and adherence is areas where COVID-19 is already well-established, there is a second group for whom it is equally important: those in areas of rising risk. These are counties where there is a small presence of COVID-19 – perhaps a handful of cases – but where the prevalence of vulnerable populations is high.

With that in mind, EXL Health has developed an infographic that shows where the populations most vulnerable to poor COVID-19 outcomes reside on a county-by-county basis. By sharing this information, life sciences commercial effectiveness teams can help healthcare providers (HCPs) understand which patients may require extra education or counseling about the importance of maintaining adherence to their medications and how life sciences companies can help reduce their costs where needed. The infographic is based on two factors.

The first is counties where COVID-19 is already present, based on publicly available data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and other sources. Understand that this data is changing rapidly day-by-day, sometimes hour-by-hour, so it forms a snapshot in time.

The second is EXL’s own proprietary Commercial Internal Benchmark database of the U.S. population that tracks risk factors based on pre-existing conditions. EXL used its deep clinical analytics experience and actuarial expertise, along with its long history of driving insights based on rich data assets, to identify the effect these combined factors could have in contributing the severity of COVID-19 exposure.

The resulting heat maps, which are shown in the infographic, highlight the U.S. counties that have a high risk of becoming COVID-19 hot spots due to the greater presence of underlying comorbid conditions. They examine five of the high risk conditions in the U.S. – diabetes, heart disease, lung disease, Kidney disease and immunosuppressive conditions – that also leave patients/members particularly vulnerable to the devastating effects of COVID-19.

With this data in-hand, commercial effectiveness teams can approach HCPs to help them understand who among their patient populations is at the highest risk if COVID-19 strikes their area so they know where to focus their attention before disaster hits. Much like boarding windows and laying sandbags before a hurricane helps protect personal safety and property, getting ahead of any changes that could drive a negative outcome in a specific county can help HCPs mitigate its effects.

For example, commercial effectiveness teams can share information about the financial assistance programs their organizations offer to help make medications affordable, helping HCPs remove one of the largest obstacles to medication adherence. Additionally, they can present their medication adherence programs that educate patients on the importance of taking their medications as-prescribed, not just during the pandemic but moving forward as well.

The heat map also helps life sciences marketing teams understand where they should increase their support of HCPs through direct-to-consumer advertising. By targeting those areas with both general and COVID-19-specific messaging they can help reach a larger population, especially in areas where HCPs don’t have sufficient care management resources.

Once the immediate crisis has passed, life sciences organizations will be able to use these same types of analytics to demonstrate how effective their programs were in helping reduce the impact of COVID-19 on patients with various conditions by comparing the results of HCPs who used their programs versus those who didn’t. This will create a powerful testament as to why they should work more closely together moving forward.

Like a hurricane track, the situation with COVID-19 is constantly evolving. EXL Health will continue to update its analysis with new insights as they become available.

For now, however, life sciences commercial effectiveness teams can do the HCPs they serve, as well as their communities, a huge service by helping their most vulnerable populations do all they can to remain healthy so they can resist COVID-19 more effectively. The goodwill they generate, as well as the proof points, will serve them well not just today but in the future as well.

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