Expanding access to care in rural North Carolina through pharmacy care telehealth hubs

UnitedHealthcare Community Plan of North Carolina is committed to closing gaps in care for underserved communities. Our $75,000 investment in collaboration with Community Pharmacy Enhanced Services Network (CPESN) will help provide health care services to health professional shortage areas (HPSA) through 11 strategically identified pharmacy telehealth hubs. CPESN is a clinically integrated network of pharmacy providers with more than 3,500 community pharmacies participating in 49 local networks within 44 states.1 The network is directed by a board of community pharmacy owners appointed by their local CPESN Network.

Health Professional Shortage Areas

Approximately 83 million Americans live in HPSAs.2 An insufficient quantity of providers has serious negative implications for patients and communities including higher rates of hospitalization, lower quality of care and higher mortality rates.

HSPAs are more prevalent in rural areas where the average patient-to-physician ratio is 39.8 physicians per 100K individuals compared to 53.3 physicians in urban areas.3 Telehealth services utilized at home are also more difficult for rural residents due to a lack of access to broadband services. When specifically considering North Carolina, 92 counties have a shortage of primary care providers.4

UnitedHealthcare Pharmacy Care Telehealth Hubs

To ensure members have access to acute and urgent care, UnitedHealthcare Community Plan of North Carolina:

  • Strengthens relationships with rural pharmacists who have private spaces for telehealth visits and are clinically trained to provide point-of-care services
  • Expands pharmacy relationships through collaboration with CPESN
  • Establishes a local point of connection with UnitedHealthcare Doctor Chat telehealth physicians
  • Connects local members with telehealth providers through technology-enabled devices funded by UnitedHealthcare and hosted at local pharmacies
  • Educates members about UnitedHealthcare’s no-cost telehealth benefits

Regardless of home broadband service, members can visit a participating pharmacy where they will have access to an online visit on a computer or tablet located in a private space. Doctor Chat can also be accessed on personal mobile devices for 24/7 care. The virtual care service can be used for:

  • Sick children
  • Coughs, fevers, sore throat
  • Earaches, stomach pain, diarrhea
  • Rashes, allergic reactions, animal/insect bites
  • Back/abdominal pain
  • Sports injuries, burns, heat-related illnesses
  • Urinary tract infections
  • General health questions

Members can receive a screening regarding social drivers of health and a list of community-based resources. They can also receive a telehealth exam, prescriptions, behavioral health integration services, immunizations and point-of-care testing. Participating pharmacies include Southside Discount Pharmacy, Broad Street Pharmacy, Carolina Pharmacy, Josef’s Pharmacy, Moose Pharmacy of Concord, Locust, Salisbury, Mt. Pleasant and Monroe, , Wilson Value Drug Store and the You 1st Pharmacy. Recently launched in 2024, North Carolina joins 3 markets in which the pharmacy care telehealth hub program is available.

UnitedHealthcare Community Plan of North Carolina is investing in Pharmacy Care Telehealth Hubs because research shows that telepharmacy services reduce care costs and hospital readmissions while increasing patient satisfaction and adherence to care plans.5,6 With 90% of Americans living within five miles of a community pharmacy, the UnitedHealthcare Pharmacy Care Telehealth Hub program is well-positioned to make a significant impact in positive health outcomes for the North Carolinians.7

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