Strengthening Partnerships in Times of Uncertainty by Esther Moon

Coming into my service term in August of 2019, I was not completely sure what I was getting myself into with my service year, and mainly the Prescription Assistance Programs I would be utilizing for the patients I would be serving. I knew that as a Patient Advocate at one of the Philadelphia Department of Public Health, Health Centers that I would be assisting in enrolling patients in such programs for them to receive their medication, but I did not understand the extent to which the programs could function beyond. While it is basically what the name states - programs that assist patients in getting their medication, there is a lot more to it that I have realized the past 8 months.

In the beginning it was fairly simple. I would meet with patients to establish a basic connection and get their information I needed to complete these applications. Once I was finished with that, all I had to do was send it in and make sure that the Prescription Assistance Program companies received these applications. Medications would arrive, and I would call patients to pick up their medication at the health center. However recently, things and life as we know it have changed drastically. There is no denying that COVID-19 has not changed the way we deal with daily life. Along with the sudden introduction of terms like “socially distancing” and “self-isolating” becoming normal words in our vocabulary, our service year has changed as well. The majority of us serve from home now, and members including those at the Philadelphia Department of Health Center Health Centers still go into their host sites a couple times a week.

Now in the midst of this pandemic, many Prescription Assistance Programs have adapted to better the lives of the patients we serve. Many of them have resorted to shipping medications directly to patients' homes whereas they are usually shipped to the health center for them to come pick them up. This decreases the amount of times a patient may have to leave their home, decreasing their chances of infection or spreading COVID-19. Other programs have been starting to accept us signing on behalf of the patient on forms to get them approved for the medication. In a different situation a company worked with me to provide a patient with a 30 day supply to make sure there was no gap in their medical care. There are many changes that have taken place in the last few months, and without a doubt I think that the initial partnerships we have had with these programs in the first place have grown stronger. Prescription Assistance Programs were created in the first place to reduce any barriers that patients in underserved populations can experience receiving life-sustaining medications, and in times of the unknown, it is important for such programs to change and grow. Hopefully in the future it will get easier for patients to get their medication as the pandemic winds down. However now we can only try to work hard on sustaining the connections we have now and work together as a team to help improve the medical care of the patients we serve with a bright outlook to what the future holds.